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New Paid Parental Leave Legislation a Step in the Right Direction

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There’s very little that Republicans and Democrats can agree on in today’s political climate. However, one issue that appears to have full bipartisan support is finding a solution to America’s paid parental leave problem.

Providing financial security for new parents is an issue that has only recently gained traction on both sides of the aisle. And the conversation heated up earlier this week when Republican senators Mike Lee (Utah) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) rolled out a paid parental leave proposal. The Cradle Act would allow new parents to tap into their Social Security savings to take paid time off after the birth or adoption of a child. However, this would require the parents to delay their retirement.

Jon Hyman, partner in the Labor & Employment Group at Cleveland’s Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis, has been an advocate for paid parental leave in the U.S. Hyman said that while he doesn’t think the Cradle Act is the solution, it’s a step in the right direction.

“There’s other ways to accomplish this, but what’s clear is we need it, people are overwhelmingly in favor of it, and I think it’s a matter of time before we have it,” Hyman said. “It’s just a question of what the ‘it’ looks like.”

Hyman said his qualms with the Cradle Act are that it robs a fund (Social Security) that already has financial issues and at the same time, delays the ability of workers to retire. Hyman also pointed out that the proposed legislation lacks any job protections or anti-retaliation protections for employees who would choose to exercise their rights under the statute.

“Without those protections, no matter what the leave looks like, I think it’s meaningless, because a large chunk of employees are going to be dissuaded if they don’t have some protections on the back end,” he said.

Despite his objections to the act, Hyman said it’s undoubtedly a positive development that Republicans have come around to the idea of tackling the paid family leave problem in the country — a cause Democratic politicians like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) have championed for several years. Gillibrand’s proposed Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, known as the Family Act, would attempt to meet the needs of new mothers and fathers as well as people with serious personal or family health issues through a shared fund that makes paid leave affordable for employers of all sizes and for workers and their families. 

“These days, anytime both sides of the aisle can agree on anything, we should shoot fireworks off,” Hyman said. “The fact that there is bipartisan support for the what — maybe not the how, but at least for the what — I think means that we will see movement on this issue. I think the how is what needs to be worked out.”

In his article for Workspan magazine in the 2018 June/July issue, Hyman noted that the Family and Medical Leave Act only provides unpaid leave and covers an estimated 57% of American employees. Since Hyman penned that article, several states have enacted or introduced their own family and medical leave legislation and more employers are providing their own parental leave.

Given that state momentum, and the recent Republican-sponsored legislation, Hyman is optimistic the future will include a much-needed paid parental leave solution.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t have a resolution to this in this Congress, so by the end of 2020,” Hyman said. “There’s clearly a groundswell of support on both sides to solve this problem and it’s being talked about a lot more than it ever has in the past. So, when you put those things together, I think it’s likely that we’re going to have a solution.”

How The Cradle Act Works 

PAID PARENTAL LEAVE ROUNDUP

Politically Driven

Republicans are joining the push for paid parental leave in hopes of better positioning themselves for the 2020 presidential election, The Economist claims. Noting that there is an undeniable interest from both Democrat and Republican voters in favor of paid parental leave, the column suggests that Republicans have mobilized on the issue to win back female voters lost in the 2016 election. 

Delaying Social Security

Lorie Konish provides a detailed breakdown of the Republican-proposed Cradle Act in this CNBC article. Konish explains that one of the reasons the proposal could work is that there’s been recent speculation that Social Security won’t be around by 2034.

Eight Weeks From VF 

VF Corporation announced a new parental leave program for all eligible U.S. employees that provides eight weeks of fully paid leave to new parents. The program goes into effect May 1 and allows for maternal, paternal and adoptive parents to receive up to eight consecutive weeks of paid time off within the first year of the birth or adoption of a child. 

Why Paternity Leave Promotes Gender Equality

In an article for Strategy+Business, Josh Lewis writes that while it’s important for organizations to do a better job implementing policies that empower and assist women in the workplace, focusing solely on women perpetuates outdated norms and stereotypes that inhibit greater equality in the workforce and society. Lewis asserts that until men have equal opportunities to be caregivers and until companies regard men as equally responsible for caregiving, most families will be forced to place the bulk of the caregiving responsibilities to women.

The Undeniable Benefits

Patrice Lee Onwuka shares her family’s story of paid parental leave in this Independent Women’s Forum column. Onwuka is a new mother whose company provided paid family leave, which she also supplemented with vacation time, and her husband’s company offered paternity leave. She writes about how invaluable it was to have both parents at home the first eight weeks of their newborn’s life without having to worry about how to pay bills. Onwuka contrasts her experience with the many who don’t have access to paid maternity leave to offer support for the new Cradle Act.

About the Author

Brett Christie is a staff writer at WorldatWork.

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