we need paid family and medical leave — and a new bill in Congress would give it to us

It’s no secret that the U.S. has terrible support for workers, particularly around paid family and medical leave. No federal law requires employers to offer paid leave at all. Some states have begun to require paid sick leave, but most still don’t.

But there’s now legislation in Congress (the American Families Plan) that would provide paid family and medical leave to American workers. I spoke with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) — who has been pointing out that paid family and medical leave would have solved many of the problems families are facing during the pandemic — about paid leave and this bill in particular. Here’s our conversation.

You’ve championed universal, guaranteed paid family and medical leave for nearly a decade, first introducing the FAMILY Act in 2013. What’s your own experience with leave been throughout your career, before you were in Congress?

I had my first son just a few years before I ran for Congress, while I was working in a law firm. They didn’t have a paid leave policy before I worked there — so I wrote one, ensuring all parents who worked there could get twelve weeks of paid leave.

That was a pretty defining moment for me. I had the power to change my workplace not just for myself, but for every working parent who came after me, so we could all take care of our families without sacrificing our careers or paychecks. And when I was elected to Congress, I realized I could help do that for every family. That’s why I introduced the FAMILY Act, which would guarantee twelve weeks of paid leave for every worker across the country.

About half of all families today are dual-income families, where both parents work and earn a paycheck. In about 40% of families, moms are the sole or primary breadwinner. Our workforce has changed — but our policies aren’t changing with it. We’re the only industrialized country in the world without a paid leave program. Affordable, high-quality child care can be almost impossible to find for many families. Until we invest in paid family leave and child care, we’re going to be leaving a lot of families — especially working moms — behind.

The American Families Plan would invest $225 billion for a permanent, national paid family and medical leave program. How would the program work?

The American Families Plan would guarantee 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. That means you could have twelve weeks of paid time off:
• After the birth or adoption of a child;
• To take care of a seriously ill loved one or to heal from your own serious illness;
• To deal with a loved one’s military deployment;
• To find safety after sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence;
• Or to take time to deal with the death of a loved one.

The program would provide workers with up to $4,000 a month, so you could take care of yourself or your family without losing your paycheck.

One of the most significant things about this bill is that the leave would be paid. Right now the only federal leave program we have is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which gives workers up to 12 weeks of leave a year for medical reasons or to care for an ill family member, but that leave is unpaid — which of course leaves a lot of people unable to take it. FMLA also only applies to employers with 50 employees or more, and workers are only eligible after a year of employment. With this new legislation, would all workers be eligible for the paid leave or are there exceptions and/or waiting periods like with FMLA?

The paid leave portion of the American Families Plan is modeled on my FAMILY Act, which makes all workers eligible for benefits and won’t require workers to work for a year before being able to access paid leave. Congress is actively working on the technical details of the American Families Plan and I will be pushing for these critical provisions to be included in the final package.

This program would be funded by the government, not employers, but small business owners sometimes fear it could be a burden to have employees out of work for so long. How do we address that concern?

No matter what small business you own or how many employees you have, eventually, someone will need to take time off, whether it’s because they’re having a child or they’re having a medical crisis. A national paid leave program helps support employees during that time and makes it easier for businesses to cope during their absence.

We know this because a few states already have paid leave programs, and when we’ve talked with small businesses in those states, they’ve overwhelmingly said it helped their business!

When small businesses had an employee who needed to take time off, a paid leave program helped replace their wages without putting a burden on the small business itself. Since employees remained financially secure and knew their job was safe, they were just as productive — and oftentimes more productive — when they came back from leave.

Most small businesses were able to pass that employee’s responsibilities to other employees temporarily. If they weren’t, they could hire a temporary replacement, since the state program was covering their employee’s paid leave. And thanks to those state paid leave programs, small businesses were able to retain their best employees and overall had lower turnover costs.

Many small businesses want to offer their employees paid leave, both because they know it’s good for their employees, and because it helps them compete with bigger businesses to recruit the best employees. A national paid leave program would level the playing field between small businesses and big businesses and make them more competitive!

The U.S. is the only industrialized country without mandatory paid family and medical leave. In fact, more than 30 million American workers don’t have any paid sick leave at all, not even a single day. Why do you think it’s been so hard to pass here?

It’s not for a lack of public support! Americans have overwhelmingly said they support paid leave — both Democrats and Republicans. But for a long time, Americans saw it as a personal issue, something for families to figure out on their own.

The pandemic really made it clear that this is not an issue families can figure out on their own. A lot of families were suddenly in crisis mode. Schools went virtual, child care centers closed, family members were sick, older relatives needed care, and we couldn’t rely on our usual networks of friends and families to help with caregiving any more.

A lot of families had to have someone leave their job in order to provide care — and overwhelmingly, it was women. 5.4 million women lost their jobs last year. So many of the problems that families faced during the pandemic could’ve been avoided if we had a national paid leave program — and more and more people recognize it. We know the best way to help families recover from this pandemic is to pass the American Families Plan and guarantee paid leave for every worker in America.

What kind of paid leave does Congress provide to members and staffers?

Each Congressional office sets its own paid leave policy, so it depends on which office you work for. In my office, I offer all of my staff twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave, and I’ve seen firsthand how much it means to staff and the organization as whole.

When the mother of one of my staffers became extremely ill, he was able to take paid leave to be by her side and be with his family after she passed. That shouldn’t be a special privilege available only to a few — that’s a basic decency that every worker should have.

And there’s no official leave policy for members of Congress! When my youngest son Henry was born, I was serving in the House of Representatives, and I was just the sixth woman to give birth in Congress. I was home with Henry for just three weeks before I started coming back for important votes that I didn’t want to miss.

It can be difficult for moms to run and serve in office, but every single one of us that does helps make it easier for those that follow us. My fellow New Yorker Liuba Grechen Shirley made it easier for moms with young kids to run for office. After my friend Tammy Duckworth became the first Senator to give birth while in office, we changed the rules to allow her to bring her newborn on the floor to vote.

Our voices are so important. We have a lot of moms shaping the American Families Plan right now, making sure it includes paid leave, affordable child care, and caregiving support that families like ours need. If you’re a mom, and you want to make things better for your family and families like yours, let me be the first to tell you: You should run for office.

What can people do to support this bill?

We need you to tell your stories! Would paid leave have helped your family after you had a child, while a family member was seriously ill, or during this pandemic? Go on Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok and share your story. Talk to your friends and family about how the American Families Plan would have helped you — or will help you in the future. If you’re a small business owner, talk with other small business owners about how paid leave will make your businesses stronger and more competitive. We can finally guarantee universal paid leave — but we need your help in this fight.

{ 378 comments… read them below }

    1. Artemesia*

      Me too. When I had my second child my university provided health insurance didn’t cover maternity and I had to pay out of pocket. If I needed class coverage when I delivered (I timed the pregnancy to have her in May in time for summer break but she was born in early April before classes were over because we assumed it would take a couple of months to launch and it didn’t) if I needed class coverage I had to pay for a substitute myself (on my truly pitiful salary. Luckily I had colleagues who covered my last under grad classes and I taught my final grad seminar on Weds after having my daughter on Sunday.

      We need to create a society in which the needs of women and children are supported. Just as we need to provide college or trade educations for our young. (and yeah I paid my own way — it was easy to do in the 60s, it isn’t today).

      We don’t pay more taxes than European countries but we don’t get much for our money — in family support, medical care, and education that they take for granted.

      1. Freya*

        They made *you* pay for their employee, just because the employee is doing your work when you can’t?!? WHAT THE…!

        What kind of sick, twisted country is the USA that this is legal?!?

      2. Glitterati*

        This is one of the worst things I’ve heard to date. That is horrific and I’m really sorry you experienced it.
        I’m English but live in Australia. Those in power in the US should have a look into the leave and support offered in the UK and Australia to see what normal looks like. My gov organisation offers paid drug and alcohol rehab leave, blood donors leave, carers leave, sick leave, 20 days vacation with the option to purchase more, up to 4 days compassionate leave, exam leave, leave for NAIDOC ceremonies (a significant time for Aboriginal people), organ donation leave, leave if you experience family violence, study leave, foster care leave, sports event leave and a flexitime system where you accrue back your overtime as leave. When I was pregnant my appointments were paid leave. I could take up to two years off, the gov paid me around $16,000 AUS over 4 months while on parental leave and many employers also pay your salary for a period of time too. Parents can also take a lump sum payment instead of the $16k if they don’t meet the eligibility criteria. That’s the standard.
        I’m so so sorry that I’m this day and age this kind of sh*t is ok, and what is offered above, while being better than before, is still totally unacceptable in my opinion.

        1. ABK*

          I don’t mean to be rude or dismissive, but I think most of those in power don’t have any interest in seeing how things are done elsewhere and are very well aware that we lag behind other industrialized countries. We don’ have paid family leave or vacation time or sick time because of a very ruthless form of capitalism that many believe is also the foundation of our American exceptionalism. Anything less than ruthless capitalism is socialism and laziness. This, combined with an engrained sense of family values. Many people, both not in power and in power, really believe that women shouldn’t be working and men shouldn’t be home. Why do you need paid family leave in that situation?

          This has come up in public discord this year! we finally have a temporary, covid-fueled safety net that is helping keep people home instead of taking very, very low paying jobs. Politicians are outraged. There was also an op-ed in the WSJ about how government sponsored daycare was an affront to american family values, because women belong in the kitchen and the nursery.

          1. MassMatt*

            This. We aren’t in this situation for want of examples that it can be done, but because a powerful section of the monied class wants it this way.

            I applaud the push for leave policies but am extremely skeptical it will get anywhere. The minimum wage bill died in the senate, the much-vaunted “tie breaker” from Kamala Harris never came because the R’s were uniformly opposed and the D’s could not even muster 50 votes; one was actually gleeful in voting it down.

            If we cannot get the votes to raise the minimum wage, which has stagnated in real terms for about 50 years, I doubt we will see paid leave anytime soon. But we must keep pushing and not despair! I have been pleasantly surprised before, I didn’t expect marriage equality to happen in my lifetime either.

        2. DegrowthAndAFederalJobsGuarantee*

          I agree with the other commentators that the issue isn’t the ignorance of politicians in power (rather, it’s their self-interest), but thank you for this list, I hadn’t realized it was so broad, despite just having a conversation this week about Australian vacation time with my friend who lives there. NAIDOC, exam, and organ/blood donor leave were all new to me. In my opinion, Australia definitely doesn’t have enough when compared to other countries (e.g. Sweden for parental leave, France for vacation days).

  1. Antony J Crowley*

    To get to safety after domestic violence?! Wow. That’s fabulous. I hope this passes! It would have made such a difference to me if a law like this had been in place when I left my ex.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      Same here. Having to still work because I needed the income and dealing with all of the police/legal system stuff was probably one of the worst things I’ve experienced. Plus moving and everything else.

    2. RosyGlasses*

      So glad that Oregon has this protection in place for employees already (albeit unpaid – but it’s a start).

      1. Lurker*

        New York City already has a law that employees must be granted up to five days of paid sick or safe leave. The latter being to deal with situations such as stalking, assault, domestic violence for the employee or to help a family member in that situation.

        1. Self Employed*

          Back in the late 90s, in California, I worked at a company with a call center. One of the call center operators showed up with injuries from domestic violence, and her coworkers were asking before her shift or on break if they could help or anything.

          She was fired for “being a distraction in the workplace” by lunchtime.

  2. Lucious*

    An excellent topic. I hope the Senator can gain traction for this proposal in DC.

    If the executives I’ve met are any indication, a group of lobbyists and corporate palm-greasers are already drawing plans to kill this bill in committee. Few things seem to offend the C-suite club faster than the prospect of employees taking more time off.

  3. Miss Muffet*

    it’s truly appalling how poorly we treat parents with regard to leave in this country. But what i love about this bill is it’s more than maternity leave. As an adoptive parent, i would have LOVED to have had more time with my child when we first brought her home. I got 1 week of paid adoption leave and had to take the rest unpaid. With this, the leave is divorced from the “medical condition” of pregnancy/childbirth, and not only allows adoptive parents to have this bonding time with their kids, but also fathers or non-biological mothers, such as those in same-sex partnerships.
    Not to mention all of the other amazing reasons she mentions — domestic violence, illness of parents, etc…. But i feel it’s an uphill battle. I think the party that likes to think of itself as promoting “family values” just really wants/expects women to stay home and handle all of this caregiving as their job.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      And yet those same people don’t support increasing the minimum wage so that one person has the option to stay home and handle the caregiving while the other works for a living wage.

      1. Jess*

        which same people?
        Generally, the party that supports paid leave (Democrats) is also the party that supports increasing the minimum wage. There are exceptions within parties, yes.

        1. Lemonitswednesday*

          They’re referring to the “family values” party, which would be the Republicans.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      All of this! And the party that thinks of itself as supporting the military isn’t the one calling for military family members to be able to take time off to deal with a loved one’s deployment. I can tell you, if my husband deploys again, I would be very happy to be able to take some time off to adjust with my son and figure out how best to deal with some of the complications of temporarily becoming a one-adult household.

      1. LearnedTheHardWay*

        I was pleased, but not too surprised, to see that included. It not only throws a bone to the “Mur’can” conservatives who want to “Support Our Troops!” (while at the same time not doing a dang thing to hold their reps feet to the fire when it comes to things like the absolutely abhorrent VA processes, getting the troops enough personnel and equipment to train properly, etc); but Gillibrand has been one of the most vocal supports of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) survivors. Some of her ideas when it comes to sexual assault in the military are pretty hare-brained, but at least she’s THINKING about how to solve the freaking problem! I AM a female veteran who did not face MST myself, but the culture better change in the military before I encourage my girls to follow in my footsteps. They’re a lot prettier than I am. :D

        1. skunklet*

          after 6 years Navy, the only ‘pro military’ part of Republicans that exist is of the subcontractor/Military Industrial Complex variety. They send us to war w no support at home or when we come back (better now than Vietnam but nowhere near what it should be), for example. All they want is to make $$ by being a consultant for the MIC and telling their constitutions “American Might [military]” has done ………

    3. KaylinNeya*

      We desperately need this. I would be very interested to read the fine print however. I know for FMLA – you have to have worked for the employer for 12 months and put in 1020 (may not be exactly correct – I know it’s over 1000) hours in the last 12 months in order to qualify. For women who get jobs while pregnant, this is impossible to meet. And if someone (like myself) has a birth control failure in the first few months of a job, then it can still mean that you don’t qualify. Also, companies are allowed to require that if two spouses work for the same company, the spouses have to split FMLA, so that they can only take 12 weeks between the two of them. Will this be true for the new proposed legislation? I am excited that this is coming, but I truly wish that it was MORE ambitious. That Mom’s could get at least 6 months off after childbirth. At 3 months, if you are breastfeeding, you are still supplying all the food that the baby needs. Yes, work is required to allow you to pump and space to pump, but even with a great machine, it can be hard to get a good amount of milk out and the stress to provide for baby is so high (and it’s hard to disconnect from work to relax enough to pump well). I feel like this is a good first step, but it’s not enough. We don’t take puppies from their mothers before they are weaned, but we require Moms to go back to work before babies can have any other type of food? And at 3 months, most Moms (well, other parents too LOL) are still completely frazzled and sleep deprived – you can’t tell me that most people do their best work in that state. I think that 6 months (ideally a year, but I know that will never happen in the US) would be much better. And yes, I have considered moving to other, more progressive, countries that have better maternal leave policies.

      1. Jess*

        in our state (WA), the way it works is that as long as you’ve worked that number of hours TOTAL over the past year, you qualify. So if you change jobs in the same year you get pregnant, that is fine. This works because you pay into a state fund, similar to unemployment, and then you get paid out of that fund, rather than by your employer. So it doesn’t matter if you have changed jobs.
        Yes, 3 months is way better than nothing, but I agree more is needed!

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        I agree with you. Without getting into a total off topic subject though, there are still a ton of people that think breast feeding is a choice and you can just feed formula rather than pumping at work or taking more time off. I have no kids and firmly believe that “fed is best” (by whatever means works for mom) but I have heard a big disconnect between the current generation and my parent’s generation that fed us all formula. Unfortunately, my parents’ generation is still running things in most companies and govt.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          Breastfeeding is definitely a choice, and fed by whatever means is definitely best, but those who can breastfeed and choose to do so should still be given the opportunity to do it successfully! As a lactating person who mostly pumps, pumping is HARD and takes a lot of time. I am currently working remotely, so I can pump WHILE working most of the time, but I still need to take time to wash bottles, wash pump parts, hand-express that last bit out, etc. I only pump four times a day, and I still feel like my entire life is spent doing that stuff. I’m grateful I’m unlikely to have to go into the office until fall, and even then it’ll probably start out as only one day a week. Maybe I can avoid having to do much in-office pumping, before my baby is weaned.

          1. LearnedTheHardWay*

            I absolutely applaud you for being willing to pump in order to feed your baby. Pumping was a misery to me and I chose not to go back into the workforce rather than pump. You are seen and you are loved! (So is every mom here feeling guilty about feeding formula, every mom who has chosen to remove herself from the workforce in order to exclusively breastfeed, and every other mom who lugs pumps, parts, and milk to work. <3)

          2. Case of the Mondays*

            Oh please don’t misunderstand my comment. I’m agreeing with you!! I’m saying the old white men running things think it is just a “choice.” Sorry if I was confusing!

      3. J!*

        It literally says in the article that the legislation as proposed would apply to all workers regardless of tenure regardless of employer size: “The paid leave portion of the American Families Plan is modeled on my FAMILY Act, which makes all workers eligible for benefits and won’t require workers to work for a year before being able to access paid leave.”

        1. OhNo*

          Yes, but it sounds like some of the details are still being worked out in committee. I hope that part stays in for the final bill! It would be such a great benefit if it was truly universal, with no restrictions on time worked or the size of the business you work for.

          And I definitely agree, KaylinNeya, that I’ll be keeping an eye on whether companies are allowed to split the leave like they can with FMLA. It would be so wonderful if both parents or partners could be at home with baby for the full 12 weeks – or even have first one and then the other, so their newborn has full-time parental care for the first 6 months. More time would be great, but this would be a nice start.

      4. Annie Hanson*

        KaylinNeya: it’s actually 1,250 worked hours (plus 12 months of service) to be eligible for FMLA, assuming the employer is large enough (at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius).

        I am fortunate to work at a state agency that offers 12 weeks of FMLA and 6 weeks of paid parental leave to qualifying employees. Most of them also have the right to concurrently take a contractual parenthood leave, which runs for a total of 6 months starting from the date of birth or adoption and can be extended by supervisor or division director approval for 6 additional months.

        I also absolutely agree that moms should be allowed to take more paid leave than most employers currently allow (even if they do so). Many European countries offer 1-2 years of time off, often paid, for EITHER parent. We need to have the conversation include single dads as well, not just single moms.

        (For the record, I do not have kids and don’t plan to but that’s irrelevant. I support this for ALL parents.)
        Plus, if BOTH parents work at the same or 2 different state agencies, they do NOT have to split the FMLA nor the paid parental leave time. Each one gets up to 12 weeks FMLA and up to 6 weeks paid leave (which runs concurrently). The amounts are pro-rated for less than FT employees as long as they meet FMLA requirements. That applies to adoptive parents as well, regardless of gender. The parents don’t have to married either-ie if the employee is the birth or adoptive dad, they are eligible to take leave because the reason is about the baby, not about caring for their partner (which is only covered by FMLA to legally married couples, which I take issue with but that’s another story for another day!).

  4. Cranky Anon*

    This sounds fantastic, and I support it! I am interested to know of any limits – will it be capped at 12 weeks of paid leave each year? Could you use 12 weeks for a birth of a child, then 12 weeks for the sickness of a spouse, then another 12 weeks after the death of a parent…..? I work in an industry where we see people trying to find loopholes ALL THE TIME, so I’ve found myself being more cynical than I’d like to be, unfortunately…..

    1. Claire*

      If someone had a child, had a spouse get sick, and a parent die all in one year, that’d be pretty tragic and not a loophole, right? In any case, currently FMLA caps you at 12 weeks per year – if you have a baby, take 12 weeks of leave, and then your spouse gets sick, you’re out of luck. I don’t know if this plan would change that.

    2. Abogado Avocado*

      If a family has a new child and then 13 weeks later one of the spouses becomes so severely ill that the other spouse must care for them, don’t you think that family deserves 24 weeks of leave all told? Paid family leave isn’t a “loophole”; it’s a response to a very real need.

      Moreover, whatever your industry, I can promise you that your scenario is rare. In the 30 years I’ve practiced law, I know of only one case — a mother who delivered her first child and then was discovered to have bone cancer — that fits your hypothetical. In such a case, why wouldn’t 24 weeks (at least) of paid leave not be necessary?

      Your post suggests to me — and I apologize in advance if this isn’t true — that you have low information about why paid family leave is needed. I encourage you to do more reading.

      1. mcfizzle*

        I’ve had more than 1 encounter with fellow employees who will absolutely take advantage of *anything*. Eg, what is the definition of “serious”? I don’t think it’s wrong to question where the lines are, because we all know plenty of people willing to cross them.
        To be clear, of course better and more paid family leave is needed. But much like the PPP program, where is the actual accountability so fraud can’t/shouldn’t occur.

        1. Philly Redhead*

          I would assume the bill would list what qualifies as “serious,” as short-term disability plans do.

        2. TWW*

          Requiring that fraud be impossible is an unrealistic standard, and a surefire way to derail any aspect of our social safety net.

          Remember when opponents of welfare pushed the narrative of the “welfare queen”? Suggesting that significant numbers of people will fake serious medical conditions to get a 12-week paid vacation isn’t much different.

          1. Mid*

            Exactly. I’d rather have 10 people “abuse” the system, than have one person who can’t afford to take care of an ailing parent, or leave their abuser. The fact that people might, in theory, use more than their “fair share” is not a reason to prevent such a bill from passing. People regularly go over the speed limit, but that doesn’t make everyone demand that we get rid of all cars.

      2. Cranky Anon*

        Oh, definitely it’s rare! However, it’s difficult to feel that way at times when you are spending 90% of your time on the 10% of those looking for loopholes! There’s a reason I called myself “cranky” today!

        For those saying it’s not a loophole if all those things happened in 1 year, you’re right – that was uncharitable of me – the “loophole” would be to use it fraudulently, I guess – and again, it’s only b/c I see a lot of that in my industry as well. I apologize for being unkind, and always hate that there is even a small percentage of people who basically make it hard for everyone else to have nice things, ya’ know?

        1. Pomegranate*

          I see your point of view and spending majority of the time on a few people who are trying to game the system must be exhausting. However, in the grand scheme of things, I’d rather 10% of ‘fraudulent’ claims get approved rather than 90% of ‘real’ claims never having a chance.

          1. Cranky Anon*

            Yes, it’s definitely better. I’m not always great about not taking it personally, though – and apparently today is one of those days where it just FEELS personal! UGH!!! I truly am actively trying to change to that mindset, but it’s certainly a work-in-progress that maybe had a setback today….!

            1. OhNo*

              Oh, I think we all can relate – pretty sure everyone has had days like that at least once!

              It’s good to think about these things in advance, too. On a personal level, it’s helpful to have your own blindspots pointed out. I tend toward the cynical side of things, too, and I really appreciate the reminder of how rare these situations are actually likely to be. And on a broader level, this gives me some great ideas for arguments for when I bring it up with friends and family that I know will have these exact same objections!

    3. Sooner is Better*

      Shouldn’t the leave be extended for all the events? How terrible for a person going through multiple major life events in a short amount of time to have to choose just because they happen less than a year away from each other? As a worker who did have to limit time with my dying father because I had to save every PTO hour possible for the birth of my baby, I can assure you that the fact that they happened within a few months of each other with inadequate leave only hurt my productivity. Since it’s run through a central source, not each individual company, someone trying to “game the system” would be noticed.

      1. Cranky Anon*

        I’m so sorry you had to deal with that! I let my general crankiness with dealing with people just looking for loopholes cause me to be thoughtless and unkind. If someone had to use something like this multiple times in a year, the vast majority would NOT be fraudulent, and except for having a baby, none of the listed reasons are good, so it would just be a really crappy year for someone. Again, my apologies for being a jerk – even if I’m having a crappy day, that shouldn’t be y’all’s problem.

    4. Ann Perkins*

      I was fascinated and curious by this too. My spouse deployed when my firstborn was 4 months old. I’d gone back to work just shy of 8 weeks postpartum (had 10 weeks off but didn’t anticipate that the baby would be 2 weeks overdue). I could have desperately used some additional time off to rest and recuperate. I’m guessing the death of a loved one would be immediate family only, which would also be a great use of paid time off to deal with both grieving and logistics.

    5. PT*

      My mom was caring for a dying mother and grandmother the year she got pregnant with and gave birth to my sister. So yes, this does happen.

    6. Universal health care is much more urgent than this.*

      I agree. COVID leave was bad enough for small businesses. Of mt4 employees who took leave only one legitimately qualified. The rest went on vacations, moved, spent the holidays with family. One forged notes and a fake positive COVID test- she was reported to the Feds. They need to have some type of minimum qualifying time with an employer or not qualify.

      1. virago*

        I am sorry that your employees took advantage of your good faith, and obviously there do need to be parameters and constraints on how this is used.

        But the US wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel! Other countries already offer paid family leave, paid sick days, and – in a nod to your username – universal health care, and their economies (including small businesses) seem to be functioning OK.


        McGill University in Montreal studied 173 countries worldwide and found that “Out of 173 countries studied, 168 countries offer guaranteed leave with income to women in connection with childbirth; 98 of these countries offer 14 or more weeks paid leave. Although in a number of countries many women work in the informal sector, where these government guarantees do not always apply, the fact remains that
        the U.S. guarantees no paid leave for mothers in any segment of the work force, leaving it in the company of only 4 other nations: Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland.”

        Re: sick days: The Congressional Research Service, in a paper released in 2009, examined 22 countries worldwide that have high standards of living and determined that:

        1. “Only three countries – the United States, Canada, and Japan – have no national policy requiring
        employers to provide paid sick days for workers who need to miss five days of work to recover from
        the flu.”

        2. “The United States is the only country that does not provide paid sick leave for a worker undergoing
        a fifty-day cancer treatment.”

      2. DegrowthAndAFederalJobsGuarantee*

        (Fully on board with universal single-payer healthcare!) Having had to take unpaid leave this year for a reason that didn’t qualify for disability or FMLA (mental health reasons but not severe enough for disability), I think offering leave is a step in the right direct, but I think it’s better if it’s less restricted; people need time off and if you only offer it for a few reasons, people are going to try and lie to get something that they should just have anyway. I have one friend who reviews worker’s compensation/disability claims (and not on behalf of the workers) and they think that most of the fraudulent cases are just from people who have worked years without vacation time and when they got injured at work, they realized how good it feels to have a break. There’s no reason that people should get COVID sick time but not paid sick leave for other diseases.

      3. Mid*

        Aside from forging the positive test, I don’t think your employees were necessarily wrong. If they were exposed to COVID, they were exposed. I was exposed and was required to stay home until I got two negative tests, even though I was reasonably certain I wasn’t sick. If I needed to move anyway, I would have tried to do so while waiting to be allowed to go back to work.

  5. Audenc*

    “Many small businesses want to offer their employees paid leave, both because they know it’s good for their employees, and because it helps them compete with bigger businesses to recruit the best employees. A national paid leave program would level the playing field between small businesses and big businesses and make them more competitive!”

    This part is so true, and I don’t think this argument gets made enough! It’s the same with health insurance. Why are employers responsible for paying that in the first place? It makes the costs of starting a business so much higher. And I think perpetuates age discrimination, because employers know that older employees will be more likely to have higher healthcare costs. All of which is irrelevant to the core function of the business. If we can pass this and universal healthcare, we might actually be on our way to becoming a first world nation again.

    1. Grits McGee*

      Couldn’t resist answering a history question- why is US health insurance through employers? WWII! The government capped wages employers could offer to prevent runaway inflation, so employers got around the cap by offering health coverage as a recruitment tool. Plus, employer-provided health insurance wasn’t taxed, making it even more attractive. Then inertia set in and… well, we end up here. The NY Times has a really good article that I’ll link in a follow up comment.

        1. OhNo*

          Fascinating! I had heard about other perks appearing as a way to get around WWII wage caps, but I didn’t realize that was the reason health insurance got tied to employment.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I remember in 1970, my grandfather had passed away 5 years earlier but the insurance at his company still covered all of my grandmother’s medical bills and her nursing home was to be paid in full by the insurance company.
          This was a generation of people who got with a company and stayed with the company because they would be taken care of in old age.
          Fast forward to the late 90s on into the 2000s (around 30 years later) my husband’s company offered nursing home coverage for parents of employees…. at $2000 per month with a cut off at age 92 for the protected senior. (Because people don’t live past 92?) Not only was this a useless benefit it also was not reachable for most.

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            My Gran took reduced pay in life to make sure that both she and Grandpa had full medical coverage til death, whenever that was. Considering he lived an additional 27 years after her death, I’d say it was a good trade off. If I had this option, I’d jump at it. Immediately.

            My generation watched my grandparents be taken care of….and our parents get “RIF’ed” when they hit the 50-55 range in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. And realized what COBRA was, the hard way.

      1. Crabby Patty*

        Yes, this. We MUST de-couple health care and health insurance from employment if we want a truly healthy society, and Sen. Gillibrand’s et al. efforts put us on the path to that. We’ll get there.

        “A national paid leave program helps support employees during that time and makes it easier for businesses to cope during their absence.”

        1. Miss Muffet*

          exactly – because this stuff applies so nicely to companies, but if you’re self-employed/freelancing/a business with you and one other person … well, i guess it’s just good luck to ya.

          1. skunklet*

            And a lack of national health care also stifles creativity in folks. How many would open a food truck or a coffee shop or another retail biz if they could guarantee a respectable wage AND health insurance?

            I have a cousin who’s a diesel mechanic – worked for a dealership, ended up leaving and opening his own biz. But, because his wife is a schoolteacher, he doesn’t have to forego health insurance, just gets it through her. Win-win for everyone!

    2. ThatOnePlease*

      Yes, this is a great point! Also, the discrimination can hit workers in different groups — women of childbearing age are too often seen as bad candidates because they might have a baby and take time off.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        There’s also the team that’s left behind while those women are out. Are there any incentives for the employer to back fill the position, or does the employer just get relieved of the employee’s salary while they’re out?

        1. Pomegranate*

          The employer would have the budget to hire temporary help if they chose so. Actually, I think it would be more likely that they would hire someone if the leave was longer. It would make more sense to train somebody for a 6-12 months backfill rather than 3 months where it’s tempting to ‘limp along’ with existing staff.

          1. Freya*

            I won’t say Australia does everything right, because the government-funded parental leave scheme could be better, but I see a *lot* of job ads for short term contracts of about six months while a new parent goes on parental leave. (Government-funded parental leave lasts for about four months, so most places who want to offer a contract for parental leave coverage will try to fill that contract with a bit of time for handover on both ends, in case things go suboptimally)

            1. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

              We have this in the UK, most of the time workers are eligible for 9 months leave with some kind of pay, and 3months additional unpaid. Most places just advertise 12 month FTC for coverage.

    3. Hamish*

      Right on about the health insurance. I would already be working for myself if we had nationalized health care in this country. So much for supporting people starting small businesses.

    4. Public Sector Manager*

      Part of the problem with advancing universal health care is that no one talks about what they mean on the front end.

      I work for the State of California. I don’t make market rates for my salary, but my pension and health care coverage make up for that. Right now the state pays $21,000 a year for my health care coverage and I pay $4,000 a year (pre-tax). All the proposals we’ve seen here for universal health care require the State to pay 2% of salary towards universal health care and have me pay about $2,000 a year in addition to what we’re already paying for health care.

      Now, if you tell me that instead of paying $4,000 a year for my current coverage I can pay $2,000 a year for the same coverage, you’ve got my attention. But all the proposals so far are trying to up my contribution to $6,000 per year and the State’s share of my health care to about $25k-$26k per year. You’re never going to get people to pay more out of pocket so someone else can have health care.

      Once the government, public employers, private employers, and employees all get on the same page, then universal health care can happen. But right now, it’s usually one group advancing their version of what it should be without having a dialog with everyone else.

      1. LearnedTheHardWay*

        I’m also skeptical because I have US government-run healthcare, called TriCare, and used by the military. It *IS* a blessing to be able to see a doc whenever I need to, not have to worry about a co-pay, and if I’m willing to either wait in line for a couple hours or wait for mailed prescriptions they’re usually free. Most specialty care is covered at a basic level, although I have to go to the VA (which is its own cluster) for things like orthotics and chiropractic care. However, unless you make medicine truly a public-sector entity and remove the profit from it, including standardizing wages for specialty care docs and setting pretty harsh liability limitations, I don’t see how it’s feasible as we currently have the model set. (If you’re not familiar with the military members’ inability to sue for medical malpractice look up the Feres doctrine. Yes, the rules loosened slightly, but we still mostly can’t sue if the docs mess us up.) Would we still have 8 hospitals right in one clustered area of San Antonio if they were all publicly run? Doubtful, as there’s a LOT of duplication of effort. Would it be great to pull the money out of medicine? I think so – I’m not pressured to try the fancy new, no-generic-available, prescription simply because a rep gave some to my doc for free, like I’ve been on the outside. YMMV, but I’m happy to share my experiences with public-run healthcare – and we’re a mostly healthy family. The families I know who have children with autism and other things that can be hard to care for have a VERY different viewpoint because TriCare can be an onerous system to navigate.

      2. Media Monkey*

        the thing is, for most countries with universal health care, we do all pay for other people to have healthcare and everyone gets the same (pretty much – postcode lottery sometimes applies – not saying it’s a perfect system!). in the UK, we pay national insurance which is a percentage of your salary (in addition to tax) which specifically funds healthcare. the healthcare is available and free at the point of use whether you pay national insurance or not. higher salaried people pay more, and of course some people take out but don’t put in. but that’s how it is. and even if you have private healthcare you pay in – as in the UK emergency healthcare isn’t private and the GP referral that you need to access private healthcare in part of the NHS. but then none of us have a point of comparison as to a before and after cost – at points in your life you are paying in and not using much (younger, healthier people) and at other points you are taking out (pregnancy, childbirth, when older, with cancer for example). it’s not perfect but i am so proud of the NHS (you can probably tell!)

    5. TiffIf*

      When I was a child I never questioned the logic of employer-paid health insurance because that was just “the way it was” but once I became an adult it quickly became very clear…this system makes no sense at all. Why on earth should who employs me make a difference in how much I pay for healthcare or what level of access I have.

    6. Self Employed*

      I agree. One of the reasons I don’t have employees is that the cost of insurance, leave, and other benefits is so high that I would need to be making about 10X increase in sales just to hire one person at the local living wage.

  6. Newbie*

    Love this bill!! After living in Denmark for a bit, it really hit me how unbelievably unfair/nonsensical US leave policy is. This is beyond overdue and will help so many people. So proud to have interned for Senator Gillibrand!

    1. The Original K.*

      There’s a TikTok for Americans living abroad: “when did you realize America had really messed you up?” and a lot of them are about lack of sick leave in the US. One guy asked his Dutch colleague how many sick days they got and she didn’t know what he was talking about – “when you’re sick, you don’t come to work.”

      I used to work for a company with international offices and my team was split across the UK and US. It really hits you how bad parental leave is in the US when your UK colleagues who do the same job you do go out on parental leave for a year and your US ones come back between 6-12 weeks later (leave was unpaid and some people couldn’t afford to stay out for 12 weeks).

      1. Audenc*

        I had the same experience at my last job where I worked a lot with colleagues in the London office. Also, there’s a meme about “out of office” autoreplies for Americans vs. Europeans that perfectly encapsulates how the different policies have impacted our respective mentalities toward work. Went something like…Europeans: “I’m out for the next 4 weeks and all emails received during this time will be autodeleted”. Americans: “I’m taking a half day for surgery so may be delayed in responding to emails. Please text me if urgent”.

        1. Lucious*

          Some Americans’ out of office messages :
          [not applicable due to no sick time or PTO benefits]

      2. Newbie*

        yes this exactly! I had an American TA/intern in one of my classes in Denmark and she was so impressed that she got 20 days PTO and our Danish prof laughed a bit saying “that’s not even that much for Denmark”. Even just talking to Danes about how stores closed relatively early or were closed all together on Sundays and my American friends we complain about how inconvient that was, Danes would just say “but the people who work there have lives?? they wan’t to go home!”. just a totally different view of work in general.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Growing up, I watched the cheers of joy as the Sunday blue laws were faded out. So now we have a 24/7 world. I don’t see us being any happier- matter of fact we look worse for the wear. It would not surprise me to find out that our health issues have also increased because of it- but how one would find that correlation is beyond me.

          Sundays were boring as heck when I was a kid. I remember my father even refrained from yard work. Saturdays were a big push because the hardware store and other places closed by noon or so. We’d rush to get stuff, including GAS, and then we race home so the lawn could be mowed. Yeah, no gas stations were open on Sunday at least in my area. But that was okay because you weren’t going anywhere any way.

          I am not sure if we need to go to that extreme but I do think we can slow down a little and gain some benefits- health-wise, environmentally, even benefits in our relationships with each other.

          1. EchoGirl*

            My one issue with the Sunday “blue law” concept is that there’s a not-insignificant number of people in the US who can’t get things done on *Saturday* due to religious practices. For those people, making Sunday the day where nothing is open would essentially mean losing the entire weekend for anything that requires making a purchase or what have you. My husband is one of those people and I can tell you that there are times when life would have been a lot MORE stressful if nothing was open on Sundays, because it would mean he’d have to tack all the errands on to an 8-hour workday. (It’s less of an issue now because I have a flexible schedule and can do a lot of that while he’s at work, but when we first married, I couldn’t drive.) And I imagine that if one suggested making Saturdays the “slow down” day, there’d be massive backlash. (I think designating any one day is likely to be a problem anyway, there’s just too many conflicting practices.)

            I do agree with you about needing to step back from the “always on” mode we sometimes seem to be in, but I don’t think the blue laws were necessarily a good or beneficial situation, at least not for everyone. It’s just that the people who were most inconvenienced probably didn’t feel empowered to speak out.

            1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              A century ago, the New York law was that every store must be closed one day a week. Most closed on Sunday, but a significant number of Jewish-owned businesses were closed Saturdays and open Sundays.

        2. doreen*

          I just have to ask, how does this work? I’ve always wondered how this works without a large percentage of the population not being employed ng outside of the home. Because I remember a time when most stores were closed on Sunday and closed by 6 or maybe 7 the rest of the week. And if my mother had been employed 9-5, I don’t know how we would have fit everything into Saturday. I remember small business owners and community organizations saying “Support local businesses- shop Local Avenue” in my neighborhood about 25 years ago – and I stumped one when I asked how I was supposed to patronize the local stores that were open 10-6 M-F, until noonish a half-day Saturday and closed Sunday when i didn’t get home from work until 6. I didn’t necessarily want to shop at malls or chain stores- but that’s what was open when I wasn’t working.

          1. armchairexpert*

            In Australia 20 years ago shops closed at noon on Saturday and opened again on Monday morning. Small shops, like corner store mom-and-pop arrangements, could open longer. So you did your big food shop during late-night opening on a Thursday after work (open till 8 I think?), and then on a Saturday morning you headed to the department store for clothing or the hardware store for supplies, and then…you just didn’t shop for the rest of the weekend, but if you ran out of milk you paid a marked-up price at the local store, which was fair enough because those people were giving up their weekends? I don’t really remember it being a huge problem. My mum was a single parent working long hours, and we just found a rhythm. You adjust to what’s possible.

      3. Anna*

        Yes, I worked for a British media company but in the US and when I was pregnant they told me I had no paid leave because I had the misfortune of getting pregnant right when I started the job. Meanwhile my colleagues in London had a years leave. In the end, I was still coming to work at 41 weeks pregnant because I didn’t want to start my leave until my baby came. HR took pity on me (I was making $40k in an expensive city) and arranged to “make an exception” and give me 8 wks paid leave. I had planned on 5 weeks of vacation and sick time so altogether I was able to take 13 weeks.

    2. Ann Perkins*

      Further proof of how backwards our country is on this: since there’s no country-wide mandate on this and it’s up to employers, it’s possible for men to get more paid time off work than the mother! My husband is a fed and so for our next kid, he’ll get 12 weeks paid off, on top of the fact that he gets almost double the PTO and sick time I do throughout the year as well. I, the mother facing my third c-section, only get short-term disability that I pay the premiums for, and my employer has been hesitant to give me more than even 10 weeks off even though he doesn’t pay any extra since other employees cover my work.

      And those who would say “well obviously you should get another job” have no idea how difficult that is, when about 75% of employers in the US don’t offer paid leave anyway.

      1. Overeducate*

        Yes, it’s frustrating. I am a fed, but the paid leave law only passed when I was on maternity leave with my last child (and wouldn’t go into effect for 10.5 months after that). I cobbled together the 7 weeks of vacation and sick time I’d been able to save over a couple years, and then took a bit of unpaid FMLA. My husband got 8 weeks paid.

        Honestly, if I’d known paid leave was really coming, I would’ve waited another year to have that last kid. It was even worse for the friend who got pregnant soon after it passed and missed the window on paid leave by a month – she knew it was coming but it just didn’t apply to her at all.

        A consistent national policy would be good. A phase in period, instead of a hard start date where if you had a baby the day before you were SOL, would be even better.

  7. CeeBee*

    This needs to happen – we are behind most industrialized nations in so many things —

  8. A Teacher*

    My daughter is adopted. I was told I could apply for 1 week of leave time after she was adopted (she was in my home as a foster for a year first) if I wanted and it might be approved. MIGHT. I was told because I didn’t go through the trauma of childbirth, it really wasn’t like I needed time off. Moving a kid in is just isn’t as traumatic as giving birth. I wish I was making this up.

    1. pancakes*

      That is appalling. And nonsensical. Parental leave is about a lot more than recovering from birth.

    2. Your Local Password Resetter*

      Glad to know you need to be full-on traumatized before your employer even considers giving you time off.

  9. mamama*

    When I had my oldest 3 years ago I took 12 weeks of leave with FLMA and got paid for 4 weeks at 60% of my pay through disability. The rest was unpaid but we were so privileged to have saved for me to take that time off without pay but the time with my newborn was so important.
    Last year I got pregnant again but knew we couldn’t afford for me to take that much time again but knew I would barely be recovered physically by 6 weeks. Thankfully my company started offering 14 weeks fully paid parental leave! I was the first person to take it and it was amazing to not have to worry about money while I recovered and spent time at home bonding with my newborn! I wish my husband was also able to take extended parental leave so he could have been home with us OR extended the time with baby at home (which would help us save on daycare expenses).

  10. Equal Parent*

    When my daughter was born, I was able to take 12 weeks paid through my company without dipping into my PTO. When I went back to work, my husband took 6 weeks unpaid through FMLA to be with her which we were lucky to be able to do. Having him take off to be sole caregiver and spend that much time with our daughter at this age was SOOOO important not just for him to build a bond with her but it also gave him the confidence to be my partner in parenting vs a lesser parent. It means I’m not the default one to deal with sleepless nights, the sick child or the call from school. To me this is critical for establishing equality in the workforce.

    1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      Absolutely. Longer leave helps the whole family, not just the person who gave birth.

      My husband teaches, but both of our kids were born into the breaks in the year. I’m positive it made him a better dad, because he was in on the ground floor of learning about them as tiny kidlets, vs. having to rush back to the office and leave me to work it all out on my own. It still was tough, but it could have easily been much more stressful and complicated.

  11. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Paid leave would mean my husband and I could feel safer to return to the U.S. workforce from abroad to start a family. Otherwise, we are staying in Germany and paying our taxes to Germany!

    1. Teatime is Goodtime*

      This was a big reason why I moved to Europe. And a big reason that I will probably stay here and raise my children here.

  12. Lucy P*

    What about paid leave in case of natural disasters? In an area where major hurricanes happen every 5-10 years, I’ve seen many people struggle when the office has to close because of lack of electricity, need to do repairs, etc. Many businesses require their employees to use leave during that time. I’ve seen enough people who never have enough leave saved up and end up going without pay for the week that it takes to get things back to normal.

    1. ThatGirl*

      With the increase of natural disasters in recent years, this is a worthwhile discussion, but it’s not really as relevant or universal as family and medical leave, and a topic for another time.

    2. Hamish*

      Not every work situation is going to be fixed with one bill. This is a huge step towards fixing issues that will affect nearly everyone at some point.

      1. LearnedTheHardWay*

        Well… with the 4 day power outage in Texas being one proof of concept, the weather is only going to get weirder as it gets warmer. I’d love to see natural disasters being included, because it’s a valid complaint that I hadn’t thought of and it makes logical sense to lump it in with other reasons for family leave. However, I also agree with those who are saying one battle at a time and since this would affect more than just parents / kids / etc, perhaps it would be better addressed in some sort of FEMA overhaul.

  13. Anon-mama*

    I might not be reading closely. Would this leave be company separate from PTO and would employers be forbidden from charging it concurrently with the leave? Because right now if you need specific leave (say, 18 working days to deal with a funeral and estate matters for a parent in January/February), all your PTO gets eaten up first. So, no vacation days for you when your kids get fevers and have to quarantine for 48 hours each 3 times. (In my workplace those issues are only covered by “vacation” at present). Could this act cover such situations and still leave actual vacation time to lie on the beach?

  14. HereKittyKitty*

    I have no children, nor do I want any children and I will absolutely weep with joy if this is passed intact. It will make such a difference in everyone’s lives. I just spent two weeks with my sister helping care for her kids while her husband (who is military) was off on some 6-week training. My heart was breaking from the difficulty of it all on her and how she had to weigh and battle over using ALL her income for child care, or attempt to work while a 4yo and 9mo old needed her attention. After three breakdowns/bawling sessions with her I offered to help pay for any child care needs in the future, when her husband is deployed this year for 4-9 months. I’m privileged enough to offer this help, but I shouldn’t have to. She should have help. She should have been paid while recovering from birth. She should have child care access. The way we treat women and mothers is appalling.

    1. Case of the Mondays*

      The military doesn’t provide a child care benefit? I thought the military was the last employer that paid more to people with spouses and more per kid to compensate for those hardships while deployed. I hope that hasn’t changed!

      1. Retired Army Personnel Officer*

        You’re thinking about BAH, Basic Allowance for Housing. BAH is a non-taxed allowance in lieu of quarters, though the privatization of military housing in the early 2010s changed all that. Military personnel receive more money in BAH if they have dependents (non-military spouse, children, and potentially parents if they are truly dependents per military regulations). BAH also increases with rank, but not number of dependents. So an E-4 with 2 dependents gets the same BAH as an E-4 with 6 dependents, and an O-3 with no dependents will receive more BAH than an E-4 with or without dependents.
        BAH also varies depending on the assignment location. So an E-4 with 2 dependents assigned to Fort Hood, TX will receive less BAH than an E-4 with 2 dependents assigned to Fort Belvoir, VA.
        COLA or Cost of Living Allowance is available in overseas assignments like Hawaii, and that does vary by number of dependents. But that is not available within the continental US.
        There is child care available on base, the Army called them Child Development Centers, and costs are prorated by rank with higher ranking personnel paying more. However space is limited, and preference is given to those who are single parents or dual-military parents, or at least it was 10 years ago at Fort Bliss.

      2. HereKittyKitty*

        There are benefits for military people with children and they do have child care programs, but my understanding is that they can be fairly specific. There has to be an approved childcare provider or one on base, your child has to attend a certain schedule for them to qualify, there’s pay stub requirements for working parents etc etc. I don’t know the ins and outs of it, but if it was helping my sister’s family, I would hear about it. He may be receiving more money for housing etc, but he’s based in a high-cost area with limited housing on base so their rent and utility bills are eating through any money they are receiving for that. Luckily they were able to be put on a really long wait list for base housing and are set to move this summer, saving them at least $500 a month which they want to put towards child care.

        1. HereKittyKitty*

          Oh and my understanding is that some childcare benefits only kick in when you’re “deployed” versus in training or in the field. So the six weeks he’s been gone wouldn’t be covered by anything.

        2. Ann Perkins*

          It’s called Child Care Aware – we’ve been using it for a few years now. I think the general idea is that since base CDCs are pretty low cost and income based, they make up the difference with what we would be paying for base child care vs what we pay for private care since we don’t have access to a base CDC. There’s certain accreditations that the child care provider has to have and a bunch of documentation to submit on the front end, but after that we just submit attendance sheets every month, and we have to let them know if there’s any rate change at daycare or any income change for us.

          1. LearnedTheHardWay*

            ChildCare Aware (aka NACCRA) is a great way to help offset the cost of daycare in the military! I used it when my kids were little to cover the cost of a Montessori daycare off-base. I’m happy to talk to anyone who is trying to go through the hoops. There weren’t too many, and most of the providers off-base could tell you if they were NACCRA certified, and if they were they’d help you through the process.

    2. LearnedTheHardWay*

      When her husband deploys, she WILL be eligible for extra childcare, either through the Child Development Center or off-base. Also, see if her husband has connected her to the Key Spouse of the unit or if she has connected to the Airman & Family Readiness Center, Family Readiness Group, etc (whatever flavor of it their branch is). There are a lot of resources available, but it can be hard and overwhelming the first few times you look for them. **HUGS to you for being a great sister, and HUGS to your sister for surviving the 6-week training mission mostly unscathed!**

      More details can be found here: https://planmydeployment.militaryonesource.mil/pre-deployment/

  15. Chickaletta*

    100% for this!!!

    I was forced to quit a job while I was pregnant because they didn’t offer leave. The company I worked for at the time used the FMLA loophole that it only applied if there were 50+ employees within a 75-mile radius. Since I worked at a satellite office with less than 50 employees, they would not grant me maternity leave even though the company as a whole had over 2,000 employees worldwide and had an annual budget of $2B. I was the third woman in that office to be let go as a result of my pregnancy.

    1. Gem*

      Similar situation in one of my previous companies. They didn’t let people go, per se, but a lot of women quit because they couldn’t get more than 2 weeks unpaid leave after giving birth. The company never seemed to hit that 50+ employee threshold so we never qualified for FMLA. It was so frustrating.

      1. Jess*

        I worked for a small company that was small when it was convenient for them, and big and multistate when that was more convenient. They had a company called Insperity do our payroll and benefits, and technically we were Insperity employees for certain purposes, but then SmallCo employees for other purposes. SmallCo had less than 50 employees total, and less than 10 at most of its locations across the US, so wasn’t subject to lots of requirements. However, Insperity was based in TX and so our health insurance plan was based there too, and so it only had to comply with TX law and not the more stringent laws of the states where we actually worked (WA, NJ, and others). For example, WA requires health insurance plans to cover abortion, TX does not. NJ requires health insurance plans to cover medical translation services for patients who don’t speak English; TX doesn’t. This is off topic for the main post, but related to loopholes that would be resolved or at least better addressed by a nationwide law that decouples these important benefits from your specific employer.

  16. MusicWithRocksIn*

    My god I hope this passes. The universal preschool would be a huge lifesaver – daycare costs are just crippling right now. I so badly want my kid to have the best care, but it is breathtakingly expensive – and I haven’t been able to find a single decent place that will take him for less than five days a week.

    1. The Original K.*

      I know a number of families where the lower-earning parent left the work force because they spent more on child care than they made, particularly if they had more than one child three years or less apart. I am consistently floored when my friends with kids tell me how much they spend on child care each month.

      1. KaylinNeya*

        My husband is currently the stay at home parent because we live in a high cost of living area and it would cost more than he makes (which is a decent amount) to send the kids to child care versus having him stay home. It’s crazy!!

        1. The Original K.*

          Yep, I have an acquaintance whose husband stays home because child care cost more than he made (he worked for a nonprofit).

          When my best friend moved away from NYC, she was excited because day care in her new city “only” cost $1k/month (one kid, who was 18 months at the time – she is now 9 and my friend also has a 5-year-old). I was like “‘Only?'” and she said “trust me, that’s cheap.”

          1. The Original K.*

            I read a tweet that said that with student loans, housing, and child care, many families are essentially paying three mortgages a month – and that’s before anybody has eaten, any utility bills have been paid, and transportation has been accounted for.

            1. Overeducated*

              Yep. Child care for my toddler costs more than my mortgage, and I don’t live in a particularly low cost of living area (though we did choose a smaller, older house in part to be able to afford childcare….). Lucky to have had reasonable student loans we were able to pay off, though.

      2. TiffIf*

        Yup, this is why a friend and former co-worker of mine left the workforce 5 years ago. She’s trying to keep her skills up/learn new skills but she worries about hireability once her (now 2) kids are in school.

      3. LearnedTheHardWay*

        I was a stay-at-home mom, but due to deteriorating mental health conditions, I had to use daycare for my kids. With a `40% scholarship provided by the military, my cost for 2 kids was STILL $1200/mo.

    2. pancakes*

      We have universal pre-k in NYC. Maybe something to keep in mind. We’ve had it for four-year-olds since 2014 and it’s now being expanded to three-year-olds.

  17. Spearmint*

    I 100% support this, but something I wonder about these proposals is why they don’t include mandatory minimums paid vacation as well, as many European countries do.

    1. OyHiOh*

      See question in the short answer post today RE a LW who needs a doctor ordered vacation and whose boss says an OOO message is unprofessional and LW should more or less work (be responsive to email) throughout their 10 day vacation for the answer.

      In the US, we do not value time off for any reason short of a critical medical need and only sometimes then.

      1. Spearmint*

        Yeah, I think there’s truth to that, but you’d think progressives at least wouldn’t give in to that impulse.

        Again I think this proposal is super important but guaranteed vacation leave (and regulations about it) are almost as important in my book.

      1. KaylinNeya*

        I understand you comment Alison (and agree), but sometimes I wonder if employers really understand that people NEED vacation time. They will do their jobs better and a more productive members of society if they are able to take care of of their mental/physical health and that vacations are important to improving/maintaining health. I understand how hard it is to run a business and the importance of saving money/cost cutting, but I often feel like people see the short term gain, but not the long term losses.

      2. Spearmint*

        Well, I don’t see why guaranteed vacation would be politically toxic for any Democratic politician, in fact I think it would be popular and help sell the bill to childless people, but you’re right of course that some moderate members disagree with me on this.

        1. pancakes*

          I wouldn’t characterize people who oppose that as moderates. It’s standard in other wealthy countries. Opposing it, particularly after a pandemic that’s been difficult for everyone, is pretty immoderate.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I get where you’re coming from, but this is a perfect example of “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. This bill can’t fix everything and cover everything, but as-is it would still be life-changing for millions of people. Progress is sometimes incremental.

  18. D*

    How would it work in conjunction with a company’s current coverage of birth and injury through short term disability? I have never felt like giving birth was a disability (rather the opposite, a miraculous ABILITY), but the insurance does cover the first 6 weeks, though not always at 100% of salary. Would the bill work in conjunction with these insurance policies, be in addition to them, make them obsolete?

    1. Student*

      Those short-term disability policies cost money. It’s probable that many insurance companies would continue to offer that product. The companies that offer it would need to stick to the terms of any pre-existing agreement when/if the law goes into effect – such insurance is generally good for about a year, upon which the policy needs to be renewed by both sides mutually.

      It’s probable that such a law would lower demand for this kind of insurance, though. As such, the cost of these policies would likely go up in some cases, or the offered benefits (value) would drop – and some employers or insurers might stop offering them in future years.

      On the upside, if you no longer pay though individual premiums or corporate premiums for this benefit, but get something roughly equivalent through tax-based federal premiums, then the overall cost of an individual benefit should go down while access to it increases – the cost would be shared over more people, and the management fees would theoretically be lower. That assumes it’s a well-managed and well-implemented program, though, which isn’t always the case with federal laws (but works out reasonably in many cases, as with medicare and social security).

      1. Hamish*

        >It’s probable that such a law would lower demand for this kind of insurance, though.

        Yup. I pay $60/month for mine to buy myself paid parental leave for when I give birth. If this law passes, I’ll definitely cancel.

    2. introverted af*

      I thought disability insurance wouldn’t cover a normal pregnancy/birth, just complications from birth…I could be very wrong though.

      1. KaylinNeya*

        Short term disability (from where I’ve worked) covers 6 weeks of leave for a vaginal birth and 8 weeks of leave for a caesarean.

      2. Ann Perkins*

        Long-term disability does not, since a typical policy has an elimination period of 90 days. Short-term disability does, as mentioned above, and covers 6 weeks for vaginal and 8 weeks for c-section absent any other complications. There’s usually an elimination period on those policies as well of 1 or 2 weeks.

      3. Non-Prophet*

        In the state where I live, temporary disability insurance covers six weeks of paid leave (60% salary, capped at a certain amount) for six weeks, following a normal delivery. If you have complications, such as a C-section, it often covers 8 weeks. Your doctor signs off on your TDI claim forms.

      4. Double A*

        Short term disability insurance is one of the only ways you can get paid parental leave if you physically birth a baby (i.e. it doesn’t apply to non-birthing parents). Pregnancy is classified as a disability starting 4 weeks before your due date and continuing 6 weeks after a vaginal delivery and 8 weeks after a c-section. I believe you may be able to get it extended if you have additional complications. (Some of this may vary state to state or policy to policy).

        I just went out on maternity leave at 38weeks, and in speaking to the person handling my claim it was really weird to have to answer the question, “Are you medically unable to work?”

        Like, legally, yes, the law says and my doctor has written me off work. But it’s just weird because… I’m don’t feel like I’m disabled; I’m physically able to still do my job, but I have a right to be off. I think the correct answer is, “Yes,” but it still feels so weird to say!

        1. Anna*

          The person handling my claim asked me “are you on bed rest?” I said, no but my company allows me to go on leave at 38 weeks and so I am. Then I worried my STD was going to be canceled. I contacted my company and they said it was fine.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        Labeling pregnancy/birth as a disability was how they got it covered. The other way they would have had to write a whole new bunch of things. That is my understanding at any rate.

    3. Ismonie*

      Having experienced (“normal” and “healthy”) childbirth, it’s a fucking disability. It made my sinus surgery look like a cakewalk, and that was hard enough.

  19. 10Isee*

    I work part-time as a freelance writer, which means I can basically be a SAHP to our toddler, and our childcare is simple. My husband has 12 days of sick/vacation per year and we save 2-3 days for illness, 1-2 for storms, and use the remaining days for time together. It usually works out fine because if I have a milder attack of pancreatitis, or get one of the many bugs our toddler shares, I can just keep moving forward and he can go to work.

    But last December, when I had a severe attack of pancreatitis and there was just no way to ignore it any longer… I will never forget the feeling of handing our confused, scared daughter off to a babysitter and having him drop me at the emergency room on his way to work, and having to stagger in alone as he drove away. There was no PTO left, we needed his paycheck, it had to be done. But it felt terrible.

  20. too bad for you*

    I love how it says it is ‘funded by the government’ which = FREE right? No, we will all pay for it – and guess what, we can all pay for it ourselves now if we want with disability coverage. Difference? you’ll be forced to pay – even if you aren’t working any longer.

    1. Spearmint*

      Not true! There is no legal requirement I’m aware of for an employer to offer disability insurance. Also, if made universal, then those who couldn’t normally afford disability insurance will get paid family/medical leave because people with means will pay more into the system.

      Yes, we all will pay, it’s called living in a society. Even if I never drive my tax dollars go to build roads, even if I never have kids they go to public schools, etc.

    2. OyHiOh*

      Fine. Glad to pay for it through taxes if millions of people aren’t forced to make heartbreaking decisions every day about work and childbirth, medical needs, or domestic violence.

    3. anon for this*

      As a person who neither has nor expects to have children, I am happy to have some small portion of my taxes pay to support working parents. I consider that a much better use of my tax money than expensive military hardware.

      1. pandop*

        As a UK person who likely won’t be taking a year’s maternity leave, I still love that people can do this. Because maternity leave is a full year in a lot of places, then there is often a ‘maternity cover’ post available – and this is an excellent way of getting experience at the next level up in your career.

        Also, as others have said, I’d rather my tax be spent on ensuring a good start for the next generation, than be spent on bombing people.

    4. HereKittyKitty*

      So? First off the likely-hood of me ever being in a tax bracket that will get tax increases from bills like this is laughable. Second of all, even if I was taxed more, I literally don’t care. If you gave me the choice between paying an extra $100 a year in taxes and allowing people to have paid leave, affordable child care, better education and slash childhood poverty in a half or keeping that $100… You can take the $100 and more. If less people suffer due to my increased taxes, I am more than happy with that outcome. I’m childless and am happy to pay for any kids to grow up with better lives. Your statement is factually incorrect, but the attitude of selfishness is what get’s me the most.

      1. Self Employed*

        + 1000

        Absolutely the same for me. The US always has funding to bomb people, deport people, build walls easily defeated by anyone who can shop at Home Depot, etc. and we could easily afford sick leave and childcare. Also subsidized housing.

    5. kt*

      I resent roads built for cars every day that I bike on them. I guess we just live similarly put-upon lives, except that at least I’ll happily pay for reduced infant and maternal mortality.

    6. Cat Tree*

      It doesn’t really work like that though. Everything has downstream effects. This bill will absolutely reduce government spending on other services and you’re being extremely short-sighted.

      Also, if your workplace covers leave through short term disability, you’re ALREADY paying into it even if you never use it.

    7. Jackalope*

      It always cracks me up that people on the more conservative side think progressives don’t understand where the money for a program like this comes from. We understand perfectly well that it comes from taxes and we’re okay with that. Many people don’t have disability leave as a private option, and often the way they deal with this is just go bankrupt or become homeless. Those both cause expenses that we as a society help pay anyway and make it much harder to come back. I’d rather pay the taxes to make it so people can stay employed and housed and fed while they’re off.

      1. Jackalope*

        I will add upon further thought that since the people you’re referring to as “not working any longer” are probably retirees, a good number of them have Medicare which is mostly paid for through payroll taxes. I’m happy to help pay for their expensive medications and regular treatments that most people 65+ end up needing, and have no problem having them then chip in on my parental leave or caregiving leave. Again, part of being in a society.

      2. A horse with no name*

        YMMV, but I’ve known quite a few “die hard democrats” (not all, by any means, not all) that have listened to the “Free (whatever it is)” and voted for it. Then complained at me that their taxes went up and couldn’t understand why, even as it was in conjunction with their “Free (whatever)”. It was very disheartening to have to explain how government programs work.

        Speaking of taxes, though, I do wonder how it’ll raise for those below whatever magic number the politicians decide. I know there were times where my taxes went up for good causes, but I was still bitter because I could barely afford to live with 2 or 3 jobs as it was.

        1. Self Employed*

          The only year my taxes went up was during the last administration. I guess being so near the bottom tax bracket means this doesn’t affect me the way it affects people at Apple/Google/Facebook down the road with 6 figure salaries.

      3. Grace*

        Yep! Being from a country with universal free-at-the-point-of-need healthcare, who is also on the internet occasionally talking about that fact, you see a lot of conservative Americans who seem to think that saying “but your healthcare isn’t FREE, you pay for it with TAXES, therefore your argument is INVALID” is the be-all-and-end-all of a debate.

        …yes? We know? Everyone knows that healthcare is paid for via taxation? This is not news. Everyone is aware that that’s how it works, and everyone is happy to pay.

        Has someone explained to them recently how insurance works? Do they think that their insurance premiums go into a little self-contained pot and are only ever spent on them and their family?

      4. Distracted Librarian*

        Also, disability covers your own illness, not care for family members, bereavement, etc.

        1. hmmm*

          I have a policy that I pay for that covers all of that – you can get insurance for anything.

    8. ThatGirl*

      There was a HuffPo column published in 2017 titled “I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people” and I think of it way too often. Including when I see comments like this.

      I don’t have kids, I’m never having kids. I don’t know if anything in this act would ever apply to me. Guess what. I still care about the good of society! I’m happy to pay for schools and libraries! In fact, if we get a choice on what taxes we do and don’t pay, perhaps I could redistribute the portion that goes to the military and police?

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        All of this.

        It’s the same argument people make against raising the minimum wage. “Oh, businesses will have to charge more” – guess what? If me paying an extra fifty cents or a dollar on a pizza is going to ensure the person making my pizza can pay their electric bill, I’m not going to quibble over that extra fifty cents or a dollar.

    9. Teatime is Goodtime*

      I earned a higher-than-average salary in both the US and where I am now in Europe and I HAPPILY pay more income tax in order to support other people around me. In my first job over here, a step up from entry-level, I paid over 40% income tax, which went up as I earned more. I know someone very well compensated that pays more than 60% income tax. The money I paid as income tax went to all sorts of people, rich and poor, but overwhelmingly went to the people who needed it most. But those people ALSO supported me: the cleaning staff who made sure my workplace was spotless, the tram and bus drivers who got me to work, the hospital personnel who took care of me and so on and so forth. We don’t live in a vacuum.

      That money ALSO supported people who didn’t, couldn’t, and, yes, even wouldn’t work. But I would rather pay a bit too much and cover someone who doesn’t “deserve” it than leave the much larger majority of people who do deserve it out in the cold–which is what the US often does. Especially because many of those people can’t just “pay for it themselves”, even in my rich, well supported European country.

    10. Lizzy May*

      We live in a society! And society as a whole is better when people can take time off if they get sick. It’s good for all of us to keep women in the workforce because then they’re making money and paying taxes. And it’s important that there are generations of people younger than you so that someone can make food and keep the lights on when you are too old to work. We all benefit when kids and families are supported. And no individual’s buying power will ever be as strong as the government as a whole. It makes sense to pool resources through taxes to care for kids and families.

      1. TiffIf*

        THIS so much. I’ve tried to explain this to people but I did not word it nearly so well.

    11. Jess*

      They introduced it in Washington (my state) a couple years ago. Yes, we all pay for it through a payroll tax. It is a couple dollars a month (scaled depending on your salary). And yes, you have to pay it even if you are not planning on having kids. You don’t pay if you are unemployed, though, since it’s a payroll deduction.
      A couple dollars a month is very worth it from my point of view.

    12. Littorally*

      Oh no, five bucks of my annual taxes will go to a program that makes our entire society healthier and at least a little more equitable. How terrible!

      NOT. Far better this than bombing foreign children. Do you kn0w how much military hardware costs?

    13. too bad for you*

      My comment was mostly about ‘funded by the government’ President Biden said it himself – the government is US. That is what it was about – the fact that it isn’t free and we will all be paying for it.

      I pay all my taxes – for all things whether I use them or not and of course if this passes I will pay it as well. But it isn’t ‘free’ just because it is funded by the government – THAT was my point.

      1. BellBottom*

        You still haven’t answered why you think those you oppose politically don’t understand that programs have to be paid for. Yes, nothing is free. I don’t know why you assume Dems don’t know what “funded by the government” means.

        1. too bad for you*

          Well first of all I never said ‘dems’ so not sure where that is coming from – I find that there are people of all political ranges who do not equate government ‘free’ = not free. And I also don’t know why you say that I think those I oppose politically don’t understand …. I never said where I stand politically – I am actually very left of center although slightly libertarian so I am not anti-dem. Lets just say I’m a bit ‘tax weary’.

      2. Jackalope*

        As far as I can tell, though, you’re the only person posting who interpreted “funded by the govt” as free. All of the rest of us understood that it means that we pay for it through taxes, whether that makes us for or against the legislation.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      So I am forced to pay for expensive health insurance (like the rest of us). On a trip to the hospital to visit someone, I noticed the hospital had installed a waterfall INSIDE the building that ran down an entire interior wall. I wanted to ask what percentage of each person’s medical bill (and therefore medical insurance) went to pay for that waterfall. I am sure no patient was ever asked if they wanted a waterfall, but I am sure the installation and maintenance costs are passed on the their customers.

      I am hoping that streamlining insurance will allow more time for people to get a real handle on spending/costs and what is necessary and what is not.

      1. Self Employed*

        I used to go to a big-name medical system clinic (not Kaiser) that had lovely nature-inspired interior design and artwork. One of their other locations had an atrium with a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture. They also managed to bill services in ways Medicare wouldn’t cover them (such as the pneumonia vaccine) or not tell me up front that my share of cost would be huge (going to a PT to learn how not to hurt myself doing back exercises was about $1000 after Medicare paid the rest). Front desk staff, nurses, and medical assistants were curt with me if they thought I was asking stupid questions. I was sobbing with pain when the doctor made my back worse in the exam and they called security. (And this is not the right venue to discuss how horrible my last Pap test was… my pulled muscles are fine now, at least.)

        Now I go to the county clinic (yes, socialized medicine; the doctors work for the government) and although the decor is lower budget, nearly all the staff are lovely (and very responsive via messaging during the pandemic) and nobody tricks me into getting surprise medical bills.

    15. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      And sometimes – it isn’t effective.

      Exhibit A = Canada and COVID vaccine availability – far behind the U.S. in full vaccinations.

      1. WS*

        Exhibit B – Israel which is far ahead. I’m not sure that any two random examples are going to work here, since the US is such an outlier.

      2. Chris too*

        Wow! That’s because we don’t have domestic vaccine manufacturing here. No vaccine is being produced in Canada. In the United States, lots of vaccine is being produced, and until just recently it was all only for the use of American residents. Canada has had to stand in line with most of the rest of the world to get vaccines from the manufacturing countries that were willing to export them. Frankly I think our vaccination program is going much better than the American one considering we had such a small amount of vaccine to start with.

  21. Sled dog mama*

    When my first child was born I worked for a company that provided paid leave through short term disability insurance (it did not fall under FMLA). I got 6 weeks at 100%. I am the sole earner in my household, my husband is a stay at home dad. When my second child was born (and passed away at 9 days) my doctor fought for me to get an extra 2 weeks (8 total).
    A couple of years later I moved companies and we began thinking about another child. That company did fall under FMLA, so I would have been able to take 12 weeks but only 6 would have been paid through short term disability and STD only paid 60% of my salary (not an option when you are the sole earner). The even better part was that the company offered adoption assistance, people who used it would, anecdotally, get 85-100% of costs covered, the company did not offer any paid time for adoption of a child unless you used your PTO.
    I’ve now left that company for another that is too small for FMLA but has good policies around paid leave for childbirth or adoption placement, and has done really well by us during the pandemic.

    1. TiffIf*

      It has to pass both the house and the senate, and because of the rules of the senate that means, on a practical level, it needs 60 votes, which is…difficult.

  22. kt*

    Guaranteed leave also has a measurable population-level effect of reducing maternal and infant mortality, which would have a huge impact in the US because we have the most moms and babies dying of any industrialized country not currently in a civil war. Simply giving two paid weeks off before a due date leads to a population-level reduction in maternal and infant mortality. It has always appalled me that we’ll spend more as a country to put up billboards of babies than we will spend to reduce deaths of mothers. The racial and socioeconomic disparities in maternal and infant mortality in the US are just heart-breaking, and a lot of it has to do with the way we force moms to choose between work (and by extension diapers and rent) and time recovering and caring for newborn infants.

    1. TiffIf*

      Oh wow–I never knew that it had that large an impact on maternal and infant mortality rates–thank you for the info!

  23. FlyingAce*

    It blows my mind that in my country (in Latin America) I can get 12 weeks of maternity leave, fully paid by our social security program, while this is not an option in the US. I hope the bill comes to pass.

  24. Brett*

    One part I don’t understand is how does the paid leave get paid for in the long run? e.g. what happens if the income tax increases go away? As someone in a family with pass-through income, I worry about how these changes end up working.
    On top of that, will the paid leave applied for self-employed? Who decides at that point if they are eligible? What happens if you have multiple employers or multiple employers plus 1099 or pass-through income?

    1. Brett*

      Ugh, okay, I found my answer, I think. Self-employed would likely get taxed for their benefits regardless of their income level as if they earned over $400k. Looks like total self-employment tax (payroll plus income) would jump to 52% total. Still doesn’t answer the question of how you access it or what happens if you have multiple employers + self-employment. And it looks like this would move anyone self-employed into the higher IRS scrutiny class (when we are already in a higher audit group because of the type of self-employment my wife has).

        1. Brett*

          Nothing from the official white house proposal, which is why I was asking, but more commentary from experts on the issue like these:

          Here is the discussion on the actual rates on schedule c pass-through filers:
          (Maybe it will mean switching to an s corp?)

      1. Rebecca1*

        I think a lot of that is still negotiable as it goes through congressional committees. If you like some parts of how it is funded but not others, this would be a good time to notify your representative and your senators about your preferences.

        1. Brett*

          Only a handful of them though, and like Rebecca1 mentioned, that will get negotiated. I’ve found that frequently when politicians talk about “making under $x” or “making over $x” that they are only talking about W-2 income and inherently including self-employed anyway.

  25. Jessica*

    After the door closes, I’d feel good knowing Senator Gillibrand was in the room where it happens.

  26. La Triviata*

    I don’t have children but I am 100% behind this. And behind universal child care provisions. And better public schools. We need to plan for the future, put the money we pay in taxes into long-term needs, not just enough to get by for the time being. A well cared for, well nourished, well educated population will benefit all of us in the long term.

    As for leave … several years ago I had a stroke. It wasn’t serious (as strokes go), but it pretty well flattened me and they kept me in the hospital, in the critical care unit, to make sure I didn’t have another one. After a week and a half off, I went back to work, working shorter days. Two weeks after I had a stroke, I had an impatient boss asking me when I’d be getting back to work full time. We need to do something about health care in this country.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      And we also need to work on that Bad Boss problem we have at the same time.

      I am very sorry this happened to you.

  27. Pearls and Tech*

    This is so needed. A good friend of mine struggles with a chronic illness, and her job is so hard on her. When her illness flares up, she burns through her paid sick leave, which means that if she gets a cold or the flu or even a mild flare up, she either has to take days out of her vacation time or take the time unpaid. She often mentions that she wishes she could afford to take medical leave to heal instead of dragging herself into work, barely making it through the day, and then ending up even sicker the next day. This bill would be a miracle for people who suffer chronic illness like her!

  28. Tom Collins*

    I realize I feel differently than many people here, but I do not support any of this and hope the legislation dies.

    I’d prefer to negotiate these things on my own with my employer. Forcing it on businesses and taxpayers is serious government overreach in my opinion.

    This type of government intrusion is why I vote for and financially support Senator Gillibrand’s political opponents.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What do you suggest people with low-wage/low-skill jobs and/or little to no negotiating power do? (Also, given that 30 million Americans currently have no paid leave, clearly that plan is not working.)

      1. Tom Collins*

        Thank you for having a respectful dialogue with me.

        In my personal opinion I consider holding a low-wage / low-skill job to be an issue the holder of said job has the responsibility to remedy.

        In other words, if one is an unskilled workers with little to no negotiating power that’s said worker’s issue to solve through more training, education, etc.

        I pursued a field that I liked rather than one connected to History even though History is my passion. The reason for this is that I knew that “the history factory” wouldn’t be hiring.

        To be clear I think all jobs have value but that value is determined by how difficult it is to replace a person. If someone has chosen a path that makes them fungible with a large amount of other people then that’s on them, not the government, their employer, or taxpayers.

        And applies across the spectrum. Plenty of semi skilled trades people have acquired the skills to give them power in the labor market.

        1. OyHiOh*

          I work in economic development. It is important, significant work dedicated to raising the economic base of the region I live in. We’re pouring hundreds of hours into infrastructure and housing (you can’t grow business if your infrastructure sucks and you have limited housing available!) and helping owners start or relocate businesses here, using the Department of Commerce definitions of primary jobs and manufacture.

          It is a sector I’ve grown to love and become passionate about. We’re doing real work to lift our communities. The pay sucks. We have no bargaining power to change our pay. Should we continue the kind of work we do and advocate for better terms and conditions for all workers in our region, or should we leave this line of work, and let our region fall even further into poverty and desperation?

          1. Tom Collins*

            If those things are indeed important to you then perhaps yes, you should leave that job.

            1. Dolly*

              I mean, sure, it’s something I suggest to people all the time. That being said, I have first hand witness to how that’s often much easier said than done. My mother tried for 30+ years to get a better paying restaurant job. She started there when I was under 5, and then retired from there a year ago. Every few years she would go on an application spree – not even changing careers, similar level restaurant management jobs. She wasn’t asking for the world in terms of change, just better from an employer. She had five vacation days a year, no retirement, and barely passable health insurance FOR HER ENTIRE CAREER. She only had a high school degree.

              Once she had two kids, and realized her employer sucked, she had two kids who needed her to work 50+ hours to bring home enough income. What training could she have afforded to get? When would she have time to get it? When her kids were in high school and college, and maybe costs were a little lower, her husband lost his manufacturing job, and would bounce between no benefit temp and part time roles for almost five years. Their income depended soley on her – when was she supposed to go get more training? How could she afford it on effectively 60% of their household income? A few years before she retired she went through another round of applying for jobs – eventually it become clear she would never get the jobs, even though she was certainly qualified to manage a Chipotle, because they saw a 65 year old come in, who’d never written a resume.

              She had very little power – maybe earlier in her career, or pre-kids something could have changed, but after, she became stuck.

              When her mom (my grandma) was in hospice, my mom was in-charge of everything, because her siblings lived out of state. I encouraged her to take FLMA and said I would cover her, because she couldn’t work full-time and be there for grandma so she didn’t die alone. Fortunately, I’m now in a place where I can do that. But if not? Grandma dies alone, or my parents lose half their very tight income.

              In the end, this benefits us all – it’s not just for parents.

        2. Student Affairs Sally*

          Do you realize that if all of the low-wage/low-skill job holders “remedy” that situation, there will be no one left to do those jobs and society will crumble?

          Also, you seem to be blissfully unaware of the fact that not everyone has access to “more training, education, etc”, and the people that don’t have access to it are disproportionately BIPOC and women. Many people in low-wage/low-skill jobs are in those jobs simply because it’s the only way they can survive. But I guess it’s their fault for being born brown and/or female?

          1. Tom Collins*

            I don’t know about that. I’ve lived in many low income areas and the high schools all offered plenty of vocational opportunities in addition to college preparatory classes. If the students choose to not take advantage of those opportunities and find themselves under employed as adults I find it difficult to muster sympathy for them.

            I said nothing about race or sex so I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Frankly as a person of color I resent the implication and find your line of questioning racist and bigoted. Forgive me if that wasn’t your intention.

            1. Philly Redhead*

              I notice you didn’t address SAS’s first paragraph: “Do you realize that if all of the low-wage/low-skill job holders “remedy” that situation, there will be no one left to do those jobs and society will crumble?”

              There will always be “low-skill” (I disagree with that term, those jobs DO take skills, just under-valued skills), low-wage jobs that need to be done. The people that do them will have human issues that need attending to (severe illness, sick relatives, childbirth, etc.). They should be able to attend them without worrying about being able to pay the bills. I would say that they are the ones MOST IN NEED of this bill.

              1. Tom Collins*

                Perhaps we should change the terminology to “common-skilled” rather than “low-skilled” but I’m just going off of what Alison said.

                And I disagree. The market will find an equilibrium. If too few people want to be short order cooks (just an example) then wages and benefits for them will have to rise until more workers are attracted to that profession.

                And anyway, I thought getting everybody these benefits was the goal. So wouldn’t that be a good thing?

                1. Philly Redhead*

                  Except what you think will happen …. doesn’t. How many instances have been on Facebook lately, of restaurants complaining because they “can’t find” employees to work them? Do they reaise wages? No, they shut down.

                2. Littorally*

                  That isn’t what happens, though, as we can see from the states cutting benefits in order to force people to go back to jobs that don’t protect their health against covid.

                  Your analysis seems to completely ignore the inequality of power.

                3. JustKnope*

                  The “free market” will absolutely not rise to give people equitable and humane leave/PTO policies unless they are forced to. Full stop. For-profit companies just absolutely will not do that.

                4. Jessen*

                  Unfortunately that’s not what happens, from what I’ve seen. If more people start taking those vocational classes, then what actually happens is the value of those vocational classes drops and you get people with vocational degrees working in fast food jobs. We’re already seeing it with college degrees now – there are a lot of people who went to college and got a supposedly good degree and now are still working those same low pay, low negotiating power jobs. Because it turns out other people got those same degrees and suddenly now they’re not worth as much on the market. And now only the people who have a graduate degree, or a degree plus an unpaid internship, or something can access the higher paying jobs that used to require an undergrad degree.

                  That’s what actually happens when more people go get the skills for better jobs. The market equilibrium readjust so those skills are no longer worth as much. And the same number of people get stuck in low-end jobs with no negotiating power.

            2. srsly??*

              I’m sorry, but your statements are repulsively classist, and implicitly sexist and racist — and that’s without mentioning the logical fallacy that anyone is lower socio-economic circumstances simply has the so-called free agency to up and change their circumstances. It would be one thing if that naive and uninformed opinion were all you were stating – but the part about having no sympathy for under-employed people, as if it’s a moral failing or an individual choice, really suggests you need to inform yourself even a little about some of structural, systemic forces at play in the socio-economic landscape.

              1. Tom Collins*

                We’re going to have to agree to disagree then, because I reject the fundamental foundation of everything you said. I hope you have a nice day.

        3. Lucious*

          Let us assume for the moment low wage jobs should have low pay AND should have little negotiating advantage. One must pay their dues, yes?

          If so, what is the harm in all workers- those who have & have not paid their skill and experience dues for better jobs – being able to take additional leave?

        4. Teatime is Goodtime*

          I am happy for you that you have the luxury of a good bargaining position and that you had access and choice about your education and path. I do agree, to an extent, that personal responsibility has to play a role (I, too, did not end up working in the field that I was passionate about as an economic decision).

          However, I have also been in positions of less bargaining power due to no possible choice of my own: as the saying goes, shit happens. One does not choose to be horribly ill, nor have loved ones have accidents and need care and so on. And especially not to have multiple things happen at once, not even to start talking about inequitable starts in life. I think it is utterly unreasonable to expect an individual to have the means and planning to cover ALL DISASTERS that are possible–sickness, accident, natural disaster, physical incapability of continuing chosen skilled work, etc. It is far too easy to stitch together plausible narratives of misfortune and unluckiness that befall someone who otherwise made very responsible choices. And that even assumes those choices were there to begin with.

          I think it is a question of morals: as I stated above, I would much rather cover a percentage of people who do not “deserve” said coverage (very debatable, not the point of this post) as a price for covering people who DO deserve it. Because right now the US is failing on that score pretty thoroughly for all the money banging around.

        5. TiffIf*

          In other words, if one is an unskilled workers with little to no negotiating power that’s said worker’s issue to solve through more training, education, etc.

          But chronic illness, acute injury, pregnancy, dying family members or domestic violence don’t wait for you to get more training or education to be in a better bargaining position before they happen.

          So somebody could still be doing everything right, everything you’re advocating here–making themselves more “valuable”–and still end up jobless, in debt, unable to negotiate, and screwed by the current system and, in many cases, unable to ever fully recover financially.

          1. Tom Collins*

            My position is that one should wait until they gain such skills and leverage prior to having children or taking on responsibility for a family.

            1. Freya*

              Taken to its logical conclusion, your statement implies that only people with money should reproduce. That’s awfully close to eugenics.

              (and by awfully close, I mean that minority groups such as disabled people, including disabled working people, are over represented in the “insufficient money” category. And so yeah, logically you’re saying that we shouldn’t reproduce, because of factors that boil down to our disability. Which is eugenics, even if you’re not going as far as to say we should be dead)

            2. WS*

              I developed cancer at age 22, in my final year of university. What skills and leverage should I have developed to prevent this affecting my employability and education?

            3. Roci*

              What about getting sick or caring for a sick family member? How do you hold that off until you have enough skills and leverage to get paid time off?

            4. DyneinWalking*

              You like to reply selectively, don’t you? The comment also included “chronic illness, acute injury, […], dying family members or domestic violence”.
              Congratulations on homing down on the pregnancy part while ignoring everything else.

              (even then, the only guaranteed way to not get pregnant is to not have intercourse, ever. Birth control fails and, incidentally, costs money, too…)

            5. kt*

              Yes, wait until you have a fancy job until you get cancer! My high school classmate Nora really ought to have listened to that advice. She made really poor decisions and chose to get throat cancer right after graduating from college, in her first job, which didn’t offer insurance to entry-level workers, nor could she stay on her parents’ plan because this was the early 2000s. She had to exhaust her assets (which were admittedly small, but thankfully the rate at which she entered poverty increased dramatically when she got too sick to work — not too sick from treatment, as she couldn’t get treatment yet, just too sick from the cancer) and then she had to wait through a waiting period to get onto state insurance for indigent people. Finally she got access to health insurance and then started to get health care but then she died. I think she was 24.

              Don’t be like Nora and choose to get cancer when you don’t have a job with benefits.

              (I hope the reader understands my angry sarcasm here. The cruelty of the idea that the poor deserve to die of treatable problems because by definition poor = simultaneously irresponsible (tautologically) and responsible (hit by a bus? shouldn’t have been walking across a street. Get cancer? Uh, shouldn’t have been eating ramen. Have a father with dementia who needs full time care? Yeah, can’t even write out “justifications” but you lose either way, right?)…. Sigh. Railing on the internet won’t help. There are too many folks who think it is “heartwarming” to see church auctions to support the family of a medical aide and a landscaper whose eight-year-old child has brain cancer.

            6. TiffIf*

              You know, when I included “pregnancy” on that list that there was a good chance you’d ignore the rest of the list and just focus on that one. Congratulations, you fulfilled expectations.

        6. Aitch Arr*

          I’m surprised it took this long for a ‘they should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps’ comment.

        7. Self Employed*

          I’m really tired of people responding to commentary on segments of the labor force that have low pay and no benefits by putting the responsibility on individual employees to go get a better job. There will still be people in those jobs even if Wakeen gets his paralegal certificate and stops working at Target or pulling orders at Amazon or cleaning offices or cooking in a restaurant or picking your food. Granted, a lot of those jobs are prone to be automated, but until then, we have lots of essential jobs that don’t require a lot of skill but they need doing.

          I thought “the Biology factory” was hiring and I could get a high-paying job with room for advancement right out of a state university master’s program because that’s what all the career advice folks at my university said. Well, that’s because the biotech industry was saying they had an unmet demand for biology grads so they could justify offshoring. By the time the pendulum swung back, my degree was obsolete and I had already established a company.

        8. Lizzo*

          Access to training, education, etc. is frequently a matter of privilege, which many people in low-wage/low-skill jobs lack, which is why they’re in the low-wage/low-skill job in the first place.

          Also, the fact that you knew there wasn’t a “history factory”, and the fact that you *could* make a different career choice is also linked to privilege–privilege of knowledge, privilege of choice, privilege of access to education and training that would be valuable in the long run.

          My spouse is now a skilled tradesperson, following a significant career change after 20 years in a desk job that was connected to what he studied for his Bachelor’s degree. Making that change cost us $50,000 (tuition, supplies, gas and car maintenance for his commute) + the loss of his salary at OldJob (about $80,000 after taxes) over two years. Other things that made this change possible: me having a very good job that covered the basic bills and provided us with health insurance + a savings account we’d had the good fortune to build over the last 15 years + a reliable vehicle to commute 500 miles a week to class + no children or other dependents who cost us money.

          **We worked hard to be in this situation, but we also benefit from a ton of racial, economic and educational privilege.** It is very unproductive to ignore the role privilege plays in all of this, and to continue to ascribe to the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality, especially when many folks can’t event afford the boots.

      2. SomebodyElse*

        Sorry Alison, but this is the equivalent of “Why do you hate poor people and want them to die” It kills off any meaningful discussion and shuts the door to exchange of ideas.

          1. Tom Collins*

            I don’t mind how she framed it and I’m the one she responded to. Her question was definitely pointed but it wasn’t framed dishonestly.

        1. pancakes*

          If you don’t think the discussion you’re seeing is meaningful, you’re free to contribute something meaningful to it. What is it you want to add?

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m not sure where you’re seeing that. I literally just asked what he proposes those people should do, which is an essential part of this discussion.

        3. DyneinWalking*

          Had to scroll up quite far to reread Alison’s comment, so I copied it:

          What do you suggest people with low-wage/low-skill jobs and/or little to no negotiating power do? (Also, given that 30 million Americans currently have no paid leave, clearly that plan is not working.)

          That… sounds like a valid question to me. People with low income jobs evidently exist, so it points at a major gap in Tom Collins’ argument. He left low-income people out of deserving extremely basic support, it’s on him to explain why.
          Just because the implications on his morals aren’t nice if he can’t shouldn’t prevent you from getting to ask such a question – it would remove people rights from a discussion about people rights. How exactly is that not meaningful to the discussion…?

    2. PJS*

      If most businesses did this on their own already, there wouldn’t be a need for government intervention. That clearly isn’t the case, so here we are. If you really think most people can negotiate those kinds of things with their employers, then you appear to be very naive and out of touch.

      1. Tom Collins*

        Perhaps this isn’t the reality for these people but I still view it as an issue for the individual not taxpayers.

        1. JustKnope*

          The vast majority of taxpayers will find themselves in a situation like this at some point in their lives, though – why should we all be at the individual mercy of our employers versus just deciding as a society to have humane policies?

          1. Tom Collins*

            Because you and I seem to fundamentally disagree on the role of government in social welfare. I don’t think any of this should be the responsibility of government.

            1. HereKittyKitty*

              Curious if you think that the government shouldn’t have interfered when they enacted the 40hr work week, the end of child labor, dismantling Jim Crow laws, and prevented businesses from discriminating against BIPOC, women, LGBQT+ and disabled people during hiring?

              1. Tom Collins*

                I agree with the government intervening on all of those except for the 40 hour work week.

                1. Elizabeth*

                  You do know that the 40-hour week came about in a collaboration/negotiation between manufacturing and the government to accomplish two simultaneous goals? To put more people to work after the Great Depression and to have factories able to run 3 shifts each day in order to produce materials for World War II.

                2. armchairexpert*

                  What’s the difference? Why couldn’t those disabled or BIPOC people have just negotiated better, or chosen a profession in which they wouldn’t face discrimination?

                  If it’s an individual choice to have children before obtaining college credentials or skilling up, and one should face the consequences of that without protection, why not allow people to send those children out to work? What determines whether the government intervenes?

    3. OyHiOh*

      My job has 0 barganing power. None whatsoever. We’re a tiny non profit with a governing board, answerable to both state and federal government due to our funding sources, and our pay is grant funded. Our holidays, sick time, and paid time off look pretty similar to the federal government’s structure (we earn less paid leave per month than fed but otherwise about the same). We do not have access to short term disability. We do not qualify for FMLA due to size of the org. We do significant, important work, but we do not have ability to bargain or negotiate for paid family leave.

      1. Tom Collins*

        If these things are important to you then I respectfully suggest you either find a way to increase your value such that you can negotiate these things or seek a different position elsewhere.

        We have the freedom to come and go from jobs as we please if we aren’t happy with the terms of our employment.

        1. gross*

          “Increase your value” because obviously your salary and bargaining power are directly proportional to your value as a human

          1. Tom Collins*

            No but they are as an employee. If someone makes the choice to live their lives as an unskilled laborer they’re of course entitled to exist but I struggle to agree that they deserve paid leave.

            1. Littorally*

              You have a very strange idea of what constitutes “choice.”

              Do you realize how closely job outcomes correlate with things like parental income, and how little economic mobility exists in the US? This argument boils down to “sucks to you for being born poor.”

                1. nom de plume*

                  But it’s not just “there,” though. That’s a statement without context. See Brett’s comment, below – he describes this bootstrapping you find to be the only solution, except that the cost of student loans and other associated expenses has resulted in very few savings and having to work well past median retirement age. So how is that a solution?

                  And that’s not even to mention those for whom this isn’t an option, because of being stuck in subsistence wage jobs, or hampered by ill-health and medical debt, or anything of the kind. There are so many larger societal and economic forces at work here that your statement simply doesn’t account for.

                2. pancakes*

                  nom de plume, it doesn’t account for wage stagnation or the ever-increasing wealth gap, for starters! EPI dot org is a good source of information on both. From their 2020 report on wages:

                  “From 2000 to 2019, wage growth was strongest for the highest-wage workers, continuing the trend in rising wage inequality since 1979.

                  Since 2007, the labor market peak before the Great Recession, the strongest wage growth has continued to be within the top 10% of the wage distribution.
                  From 2018 to 2019, the fastest growth continued at the top (4.5% at the 95th percentile), while median wages grew 1.0% over the year and wages at the bottom fell (-0.7% at the 10th percentile).”

                  Also: “Slow wage growth cannot be explained away by education shortages because the rise in wage inequality has been far larger than the rise in returns to education, with inequality rising sharply within educational categories.”

            2. Pomegranate*

              Who would then conduct all the necessary unskilled labour? If we learned anything over the last year and a half, is that ‘skilled’ does not always equal ‘essential’. What would happen if every grocery store employee ‘made a choice’ and a got a job with ‘bargaining power’?

              I struggle to see the connection about the level of skill and deserving some human basics. Being more ‘skilled’ doesn’t correlate to life events that can get happen to anyone: getting sick, having children, helping a loved one, or having to escape family violence.

            3. gross*

              For many, MANY people in “unskilled” roles, it’s not a choice, though. That’s the piece that you’re not understanding.

              1. Tom Collins*

                Why is that though? Why can’t a single person skimp and save and make themselves more valuable on the labor market? And why can’t people wait to have families until such a time they can adequately provide for them without government mandates?

                1. HereKittyKitty*

                  1) Because it’s difficult to skimp and save when you’re working 50hr week and exhausted constantly. 2) You may be a caretaker for disabled relatives, aging relatives or have a chronic health condition. 3) Many people do wait to have families, that’s why our birth rate is going down, but that doesn’t change the fact that a single accident, disaster or loss of job can dramatically change your situation in ways you can’t predict 4) Additionally providing affordable childcare, affordable college and accurate sex-education as well as easy access to abortion and other birth control would probably help A LOT of people to “better themselves” as you put it, but unfortunately our politicians (read Conservatives) have fought against all those things on the same basis you are fighting against them- it’s a government overreach.

                  It’s just bizarre to me because I don’t understand your solution here… you seem to not have one other than “people should just be better at being who I think they should be.” Which is not an idea, or policy or solves anything. We can leave it up to “individual responsibility” and punish people into poverty for *gasp* having a medical crisis, being a victim of domestic violence, or having to care for parents or siblings and then perpetually tell them to just “be better” while they drown. Or we can enact policies that make sure people have financial help during medical crises, domestic violence, or need leave for caretaking. We can make it easy for them to go back to school. We can make it easy for them to find better jobs and wages. And they can then have a more productive life, contribute more to the economy and raise kids that do the same.

                  But watching a person drown and telling them to just “be a better swimmer” because you’ve seen many a person swim their way to shore doesn’t actually do anything. Nor is telling a drowning person they shouldn’t have gotten into the water in the first place helpful either. They’re drowning.

                  I racked up a lot of debt in my late teens and early twenties because I was in a domestic violent relationship and being financially abused. The helpfulness of “just don’t be abused” is next to none. I don’t think 19 year old women being abused should have to suffer financially the next 30 years because you think they should have just “done better.”

                2. Student Affairs Sally*

                  Many low-paying positions also do not offer benefits like health insurance, which limits access to birth control for the people who can’t “adequately provide”. The situation is so much more complex than you want it to be dude.

                3. The Time Being*

                  How is someone living on poverty wages supposed to save anything? “Skimping and saving” requires a surplus of cash flow.

                4. Roci*

                  Yeah Tom, why WOULD someone choose to be poor?
                  All they need to do is skimp and save and gain more skills.
                  How would they do that when their job doesn’t allow for any paid time off, so they have to work even when they’re sick? How do you save money when you can’t afford to stop working?

            4. merope*

              Why not? I don’t understand the position that a person’s value is contingent solely upon the “skill” level of their work. Why shouldn’t a person who is sweeping up a street get the same access to benefits such as unpaid leave as a person who is performing neurosurgery on tiny infants (or, perhaps in a less loaded example, the CEO or even local branch manager of a business)? Why is the first person’s overall health and well-being valued less in such a system than the second’s?

              Your assertion that one can simply change jobs suggests that the first person deserves to be exploited, when in fact a complex network of factors may be at play. Moreover, the nature of our current capitalist system seems primarily focused on the well-being of the corporation, thereby stifling the individual worker’s efforts to achieve equitable compensation for their labour.

              Attaching value to individuals based primarily on capitalism’s perception of their financial and/or moral contributions to society may appear to promote freedom of choice, but in fact it perpetuates systemic inequity. If people have a value as individuals, not as cogs in a financial machine, then they should have equal access to the fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

              1. Tom Collins*

                Because that person is not as valuable in the labor market. Therfore they shouldn’t (and don’t) command access to the same level of benefits.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  So if our streets do not get cleaned and the storm drains back up with the garbage then the flooding beings. Our streets become impassable. Allowed to continue on our basements fill up with water and our homes become inhabitable.

                  These “little people” make our lives possible.

                  I get that no one likes paying for maintenance work- it’s not gorgeous or flashy. But going without it can cause situations that are nightmares. The willingness to show up daily and do a thorough job needs to be respected and rewarded.

                2. DyneinWalking*

                  “Valuable in the labor market” generally means “how many people can you find who could do the job with a bit of training”. Supply and demand, basically. If tons of people on the job market could do the job (regardless if the job requires little additional skill, or if a lot of people acquired the skills), the employer can offer very little and still find someone desperate enough to accept.

                  Sure it would be better if people simply refused to accept such a low income, but for that you need to be able to afford no income while you keep looking for a better job!

            5. pancakes*

              For your own health and safety you are better off if the people preparing your food, preparing your medications, teaching your children, butchering your meat, bringing packages to your home, etc., are not forced to come to work sick. It’s profoundly short-sighted to imagine that you live in an impenetrable bubble, and profoundly isolationist to try to arrange one for yourself. I’m quite sure you’ll disagree, but it’s also enormously expensive for all of us, as a country, to require workers to come to work sick. It’s not a coincidence that the US spends more on healthcare per person than any comparably wealthy country and has worse outcomes. There is no shortage of information on this.

              1. HereKittyKitty*

                Not to mention our infant mortality and maternal mortality rate. We are one of the worst developed countries for both, and statistics show that having paid leave lowers the chances of the birth mother and infant dying.

                Additionally, the USA has one of the worst premature birth rates in developed countries, part of which are attributed to the lack of leave. When COVID caused many business to shut down or work from home, premature births went DOWN and more babies made it to full term.

                1. pancakes*

                  Yes. Link to come, but here’s a couple highlights from a Commonwealth Fund report that assessed US healthcare “relative to 10 other high-income countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. We also compare U.S. performance to that of the OECD average, comprising 36 high-income member countries.”

                  – “The U.S. spends more on health care as a share of the economy — nearly twice as much as the average OECD country — yet has the lowest life expectancy and highest suicide rates among the 11 nations.”

                  – “Compared to peer nations, the U.S. has among the highest number of hospitalizations from preventable causes and the highest rate of avoidable deaths.”

            6. Former Manager*

              Someone has to do these jobs, Tom – these jobs that often require much more skilled labor than outsiders understand. Someone is always, always, always going to be doing work that you see as “unskilled” – and they deserve to be treated like a human IN the time they are working that job too.

              1. Tom Collins*

                Yes, they have a right to exist as a human. But I don’t think they should have a right to any Government mandated benefits of the sort we’re describing.

                Just because I think that an unskilled laborer doesn’t automatically deserve the same employment benefits as say, an engineering executive doesn’t mean I’m denying their basic humanity. Our founding documents describe the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not the right to have happiness itself provided to you but the right to pursue it as one best sees fit. To me that’s a critical and important distinction.

                1. The Time Being*

                  Oh, fuck that nonsense. Go back to the post and read the benefits that are provided.

                  You aren’t denying their basic humanity… but you don’t think they should get time to grieve their dead. If they wanted the luxury of grief, they should have chosen better jobs, I guess?
                  You aren’t denying their basic humanity… but you think they should have to choose between paying rent and recovering from childbirth. Cause apparently childbirth is reserved for those working white-collar jobs?
                  You aren’t denying their basic humanity… but if their partner beats the shit out of them, too bad, they still have to show up at work tomorrow or they don’t eat. Sucks to be them.

                  No one is fucking asking to “have happiness itself provided” to them. What is wrong with you that that’s how you’re interpreting this?

                2. DyneinWalking*

                  If people need go-fund-me’s to afford the treatment for life-threatening illness, how does that fit in with the “right to live”?

                  And as someone who can afford water, electricity, housing, heating, food, and sufficient medical insurance all at the same time I don’t consider those “happiness itself provided to me”. I consider it the basis to even have the time and money and the mental space for the pursuit of happiness!

        2. Self Employed*

          Just because an individual can train for a better job doesn’t solve the problem that there are entire classifications of essential jobs that don’t pay living wages, don’t have benefits people need, etc. and the power imbalance between workers and the company is unsurmountable.

          Jeff Bezos just bought a yacht so big it needs a support yacht for his helipad just after scaring his employees out of unionizing so they have production quotas that work them like John Henry to keep his labor costs down. People stepping around employees who drop dead on the job–and they don’t just walk out because they need the work to survive. (The big warehouses are typically in areas that don’t have a lot of other alternatives.)

    4. Lucious*

      I offer this question- how does a coworker with greater access to leave directly hurt you financially?

      1. Tom Collins*

        Because someone has to pay for it. Either a business has to raise prices or taxes have to increase. I’m not in favor of either.

        1. Lucious*

          You’re right, someone does have to pay for it. Unfortunately, we pay for it no matter what. It’s just a question of the currency.

          If we grant people the ability to take more paid leave , our taxes go up. That’s an obvious , direct cost burden increase. You clearly understand that.

          But there’s still an opportunity cost with the status quo. We just pay for it in the form of greater employee turnover, higher unemployment expenses when people change jobs due to not having benefits , reduced international competitiveness as our companies have to shoulder the expense non American ones don’t, and so on.

          We pay either way. We may as well pay less and get a solution that helps businesses and our long-run economic productivity.

          1. Tom Collins*

            This is the kind of reasoning I can really get behind. Do you have any sources or anything I can read to educate myself further?

            If what you’re saying is empirically true then maybe I ought to rethink my position.

            1. Lucious*

              Here’s a link to a Gallup article on the damage turnover alone causes.


              Here’s the money quote:

              “The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.“

              That’s a serious cost burden for any firm. Especially small ones. If our tax dollars can make a dent in just this category alone, the proposed legislation will be a worthwhile investment.

              1. Dolly*

                I don’t have data at my finger tips, but I’ve told students I will never again work for a company with fewer than 50 employees. And not just because I’m in childbearing years (and am using those years). I’ve seen people need FMLA for their health, or caregiving for someone else, and I’ve seen others in that role not have access and not have a job now on top of major health issues.

                As FMLA is the “best” we have, I won’t work somewhere I’m not at least protected in that regards.

                That absolutely means small businesses can’t attract talent – they also can’t play on the same field. This helps them too.

              2. PontoonPirate*

                I worked on a Six Sigma team investigating turnover and, while I no longer have access to that data, it was more or less this. The turnover cost of recruitment, training and institutional knowledge is a serious burden that doesn’t get enough attention when we talk about these issues.

            2. Teatime is Goodtime*

              I can’t speak to sources for all of that, but the healthcare version of this is pretty well documented. Basically, people with bad or no health insurance (those people with less bargaining power referred to above) don’t go to the doctor or get healthcare (because it is too expensive/they have no access) unless it is an emergency. Many of the problems could be handled more cheaply if caught early, etc. So not only is the emergency room care more expensive care to begin with, but if they treat the patient and can’t get any money from them or their insurance, that makes the billing prices go up for everyone. You might not see it directly: if you have good insurance, it is your insurance who is footing the more expensive bill, but if the insurance is paying out more then they will also increase their premiums. Again, if your employer is footing that bill, you might not see it directly, but if it is more expensive for the employer, they have to factor that in to their offers and negotiations with you and all of your coworkers. In the end, the money has to come from somewhere.

              The US has extremely high healthcare costs but gets less service for that money than e.g. Europe. Basically, bang-for-buck is pretty bad, and this is part of why.

              1. Tom Collins*

                Right- I agree with you there. The only way our current method of health care allocation would cost less is if we allowed people with no money or insurance to simply die in the streets.

                Since we don’t have the stomach for that reform is needed. No argument from me there.

                1. Teatime is Goodtime*

                  So… If you agree with me, why do you think this kind of leave is not part of that reform? Giving people in such situations more economic ability (time and money) to go to the doctor and actually recover from their illnesses (or help their loved ones do so) would help that particular problem immensely.

                2. Teatime is Goodtime*

                  Also, there is an argument that patients dying in the streets is happening to an extent already–patients dying of treatable illnesses because they can’t afford to treat it.

                3. Anononon*

                  @Teatime – 100%, yes, people ARE dying due to lack of access to healthcare, and it’s both chronic and acute conditions. I know someone who argues that people in the US aren’t dying due to lack of healthcare, because anyone can go to the ER, but that’s just not true.

                4. pancakes*

                  Anononon, please try to talk to your friend about the ineffectiveness and cruelty of asking people to rely on the ER for things like cancer screening, diabetes care, etc. By the time a tumor is large enough to take to the ER, for example, the person afflicted with it has a far worse prognosis than someone who gets regular check-ups would have. It’s a needlessly cruel and wildly expensive form of inadequate healthcare.

                5. Not So NewReader*

                  “The only way our current method of health care allocation would cost less is if we allowed people with no money or insurance to simply die in the streets.”

                  This would probably be a health code violation and violate other laws also.

                  The problem here is the assumption health care is affordable for some.
                  With catastrophic illness expense, most people will max out at some point if the patient continues to live.
                  My husband’s out of pocket medical expense worked into $80k per year. This did not include food, mortgage, gas, etc. I could not work because he could not be left alone. Even if we could afford in-home care, try finding it. People don’t show up or many times there is simply no one who can come.

                  I remember in the 80s my father was scorned and mocked because he could not pay my mother’s medical bills. This was a WWII vet who had been working since the age of 7. My mother’s out of pocket medical for the duration of her illness totaled 10 times my father’s gross pay. Anyone who can come up with that kind of money is most fortunate. And he did work in an engineering department and had over 50 US patents. He DID work his way up. He DID insist on getting better and better paying jobs. He did everything you said here. And he still ended up broken and gutted by our systems. What our systems put him through in the end, I believe caused his early death at age 72.

            3. HereKittyKitty*

              I mean, you are paying for it no matter what. I can possibly pay more taxes (most likely my taxes would not be affected as I don’t make more than $400,000 a year) and another family is able to continue to work, pay their income taxes and spend in the economy, all of which is helpful to the economy. OR I can keep everything the same and that same family turns into a single-income family, they apply to various social welfare programs which I pay for from my taxes, and they inevitably pay less taxes and contribute less to the economy due to less spending money.

              1. Anononon*

                This is a big problem with the “every person for themselves” mentality – I might be able to survive and thrive, but a large percentage of my community may not, and what kind of community will that become?

                It also makes it a very difficult position to argue against because there are some people (and I’m not at all saying anyone in this thread is) who literally go full Ayn Rand, don’t care if people die because they can’t get health care, can’t get food, etc. And, if someone cares that little, how do you argue against it?

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  If every person is a resource, if every person has something to offer society, then each time we “let” a person die, we have only cheated our own selves. We have lost that person’s natural gifts and natural strengths and some how society has become “less than”.

            4. Qwerty*

              Someone commented above about how small the tax burden turned out to be in their state. In Washington, it’s 0.04%. So if you make $150k, that’s only $60 a year.

              It’s anecdotal, but from what I’ve seen at my jobs the odds of a company hiring a temp are greater when they don’t have to pay the salary of the person taking leave. This would allow companies the option to bring in some extra help instead of shifting the burden onto other workers, which burns them out and contributes to resentment towards parents.

              I can’t remember the name of the country, but I recently read an article about how providing fathers with substantial parental leave actually lead to them wanting less children. It resulted in them becoming more involved fathers (good for the kids) which in turn lead them to wanting less kids since the parenting duties weren’t being offloaded to the women. Which I’m guessing would reduce a lot of the issues that we’re seeing with overcrowded schools as well as having the kids be more prepared for the “real world” when they grow up.

              Finally, if you are as skilled at negotiating as you say, please use your power to build better policies! As a child-free by choice woman, I have found that I’ve been able to make way more progress in the fight for a maternity leave policy at my jobs specifically because I am not going to use that benefit. Women (and other groups) tend to be seen negatively when they try to negotiate and it can cause their offer to be withdrawn.

              1. Rez123*

                Where I am, the maternity/parental/care leaves are up to 3 years and they usually hire a younger person to cover. It is often fresh graduates first job (assuming the employee on leave is a standard worker bee and not the CEO) including mine. It gets the foor through the door and maybe by the end of the leave there is another position open and you have a fully trained employee.

              2. Aitch Arr*

                In Massachusetts:

                “PFML is a tax of no greater than 0.75% of your eligible wages paid by you and, potentially, your employer. The amount will vary depending on how much is being contributed by each party.

                The maximum amount that could come out of your paycheck is $0.38 per $100.00.”

          2. Self Employed*


            There’s a lot more going on when we treat workers badly than just saving money on prices & taxes if we do that.

        2. Jem One*

          I would happily pay higher prices and/or higher taxes to ensure provisions like those outlined in this bill are available to all.

          I don’t even consider it particularly selfless – all of this ultimately benefits me by making society fairer, healthier (both physically and mentally) and more stable. Even if I never directly use a single benefit outlined in this bill, my life will be better for it. It’s trickle down economics that actually works.

      2. Brett*

        Well, it does depend on the individual. I personally could be hurt significantly by this proposal, and I’m probably a good example of someone who succeeded at the “bootstrapping” that Tom Collins is talking about. I was working fast food and temp work until I was in my mid-30s, never earning more than $17,500 in a year (in 2020 dollars).
        I went back to college and slowly paid my own way, due to living expenses rather than tuition. Then went on to grad school. It took another 15 years, but now that I am near 50 I have tripled my income. But I had zero savings and nearly zero retirement savings until I was over age 40, so I’m not going to retire until well into my 70s even with catchup allowances (all those years of low earnings mean I get very little from social security too). Self-employment is critical component of our earnings, even with the 40%+ in cumulative (payroll + income) taxes that we pay on it.
        If I am understanding right, this proposal will significantly up our self-employment taxes, probably to the point where it would kill our business, or at least bring our self-employment earnings down to around $2-3/hr (we won’t be raising prices). We aren’t in the bracket for the capital gains changes _if_ self-employment is only included as net profit and not revenue (and since I cap out retirement savings, I have significant to me risks in capital gains taxed as ordinary income). And, of course, there is the risk of change in the funding stream, since most programs like this are funded out of payroll taxes instead of income taxes.

        So, yes, it is good that others will have access to paid leave. But, for someone like me who “bootstrapped” late in life these small changes are going to mean working farther and farther into old age.

        1. Student Affairs Sally*

          It’s really really unfortunate that this could have a negative impact on you and your business. HOWEVER, the mentality of “no one helped me, so why should I help anyone else” and “if I could ‘bootstrap’ myself, everyone else can too, so why should we provide social supports?” is a huge part of the reason why the inequity problems persist in this country.

          1. Brett*

            Oh, I don’t care about whether I get help or not or if others should “bootstrap”. I was definitely on the wrong end of many of the inequalities that do persist in this country.

            I’m just saying that people who improve their situation late in life already have significant penalties because of how income taxes and social security are handled, especially if they are self-employed. If I had spread all my income out over my working years, instead of earning 90%+ of it in the last 5 years, I would have paid zero income tax, as well as likely having hundreds of thousands of dollars more in retirement savings and higher social security benefits.

            And the way this is structured, because we tax income instead of wealth, someone like me gets hit disproportionately in terms of impact on long-term quality of life, especially in retirement. If, instead, everyone was taxed for this like medicaid, this wouldn’t happen, but it is obviously not politically feasible to do that.

        2. Brett*

          Oh, I made a typo above when editing.
          “now that I am near 50 I have tripled my income”
          Should be that “now that I am near 50, I have increased by income over 10x”. I made an unusually dramatic increase income late in life.
          (I originally referenced an intermediate step where I more than tripled my income before finding a new job that tripled it again.)

        3. Dahlia*

          Not to be cruel, but if you can’t afford for your employees to have lives outside of work, maybe your business isn’t doing very well.

          1. Brett*

            My wife is the only employee.
            It’s hard to explain (especially without revealing the industry), but the self-employment is critical to her W-2 employment and vice versa. Ending it would result in a complete career change for her, as it is standard and expected in her industry to be self-employed alongside your W-2 employment. It also is a line of business that gets audited a lot already. The capital equipment involved in it is extremely expensive but tends to appreciate instead of depreciation, and the hourly evenly is high even if the margin is low. And a lot of people do it as a hobby, so the audit includes hobby vs business determinations.

    5. Case of the Mondays*

      Yeah, unless you are the type of rare high level employee that gets to negotiate their own contract (like CEO or equivalent) you aren’t going to have any luck negotiating more leave than what the company offers.

    6. srsly??*

      “Minimal healthcare and social rights aren’t a benefit, they’re government oppression!”
      The most tired, stupid, self-cancelling, navel-gazing argument.

    7. BellBottom*

      You can just say “I don’t care about the lives of others” here instead of this whole song-and-dance. You’re anonymous; why not be honest?

    8. Claire*

      Tom, I hope that you will read this comment and try to envision what it’s like to walk a mile in my shoes.

      I am a 30-year old woman, and I have CFS/ME. For the last three years, I’ve spent almost every single day exhausted and in pain. In the mornings, I wake up in a heavy fog. Before I got sick, I would simply wake up and put on the coffee–easy, right? Now, making the coffee is nothing short of an ordeal. I have to sit down in between filling up the kettle with water and pouring the coffee grounds because I get dizzy. My vision gets dim around the edges, and I often forget what I am doing, so I have to retrace my steps. It’s the same with breakfast. And showering. And on it goes. I used to love making coffee in the mornings–the smell, the cheerful bubbling sound. Now it is just a reminder that I am living a nightmare.

      I go through every day like this. I also work full time. I don’t know how, but I do it. I cry every morning before and after work because it causes me so much distress. I work forty hours a week, because if I didn’t I wouldn’t lose my health insurance. I don’t have space in anything else for my brain except survival. Sometimes I feel almost as if I am living my life at gunpoint, afraid that a single misstep will send me into the abyss.

      And–I did everything right. I have a master’s degree in a technical field from an Ivy League university, and I have a great job with great benefits. None of it prevented me from getting sick. But as you would have it, I should just “negotiate these things with my employer.” How? A sick person, no matter how well-trained, has very little negotiating power.

      And in case you are wondering, I don’t qualify for disability. I’m not sick enough. A little bit of grace in the form of paid leave would make all the difference in the world to me. That is really all I want–just a little bit of grace.

      I hope that you will remember my story and who you are voting against next time you go to the ballot box.

    9. wendelenn*

      “At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge, … it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
      Scrooge-“Are there no prisons?”
      “Plenty of prisons…”
      Scrooge-“And the Union workhouses.” . “Are they still in operation?”
      “Both very busy, sir…”
      “Those who are badly off must go there.”
      “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
      Scrooge- “If they would rather die,” “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

  29. PJS*

    Wow, I really hope this passes! I would be curious to know how they define “loved one” though. My boyfriend and I have lived together for over a decade but we’re not married and don’t plan to be. If one of us gets sick, does the other qualify for the leave? We should, in my opinion, if you go by substance over form, but I understand that some people would really stretch that and take advantage. Where do you draw the line?

    1. justabot*

      It also really leaves single people with very little help. If they get sick and don’t have family, it’s not like a close friend could take paid leave to help.

  30. 2legit*

    Would this bill cover siblings? I am appalled that siblings are not covered under FMLA… at least where I work they aren’t. Siblings ARE family!

  31. Jaybeetee*

    Congratulations America! I hope this comes through for you. Investing in families improves society.

  32. JustaClarifier*

    This is wonderful. Keep it up with these bills that actually prioritize the American people and not giant corporations!

  33. Kasia*

    Massachusetts recently rolled out Paid Leave which will allow my husband and I each have 12 weeks (partially) paid for the upcoming birth of our child. It’s amazing and I really hope this passes on a national level!

  34. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    … and in most places in the private sector, “Family Leave” is a joke.

    Yes, you can’t be denied it, bang the tamborines, throw the rose petals, etc. BUT — BUT – IF YOU REQUEST IT …

    AND … if you are an “employee at will” in a “right to work state”….

    TAKING FAMILY LEAVE CAN AND VERY WELL MIGHT GET YOU FIRED. Seen it. Many times, I would have loved to have taken a week of unpaid leave to care for my elderly parents in a transition but it very likely would have cost me my job, two weeks or so after my return.

  35. Jasnah Kholin*

    I think this is a GREAT idea and I hope it passes. Does anyone have information about how it would interact with the already active state paid leave programs in WA, CA, etc.?

  36. fhqwhgads*

    Does the bill include provisions to tie the $ to the CPI or some other inflation-proofing? While I am very excited and have been hoping for years a paid family leave act would be passed in the US, based on the precedent of basically….everything else, I’m concerned that even if this does pass, it’ll be a temporary YAY followed by 30 years of the dollar limit staying the same. While that would still be better than the nothing at the fed level right now, it really sucks how that seems to be the norm: passing income-related bills with static dollar amounts in them. Then you have to fight the same fight over and over again in Congress every 5 years.

  37. susan*

    Every job I have ever held, or even heard about, is insistent that everything is VITAL and has to be done AT ONCE. This is untrue 99% of the time. Do people really believe that everything would collapse and burn if reasonable leave was the norm? Or is it held in place to keep the underclass permanently frazzled? This is not rhetorical, I would love to get feedback.

  38. S*

    I would like to point out the people on the other side of this situation. Oftentimes, the word ‘management’ isn’t really associated with an actual human being. I am the director of a very small not-for-profit, in a rural community, and I am a human being. I have 6 staff members. 3 full time and 3 part time. If one of the full time people left for 12 weeks, the others would have to pick up the slack or hire a temp. That is what was suggested above.

    We work in a very specialized industry and although I have tried to cross train; I inherited some staff members that just don’t get computers. They know what they know about their position and that is about it. They resent anything new or different and because of their longevity here I can’t just let them go (and they know everyone in our small community). I don’t want to imagine the stress that the rest of us would be under to continue to function for such a long period of time. A two week vacation is manageable or a sudden accident/family emergency, but to force an organization to hold someone’s job for 12 weeks is not realistic.

    In a rural setting, finding capable temps would also be a great challenge. By the time I trained them to do the work by themselves the 12 weeks would almost be done. It would just be easier and less time if I just did it all.

    I also had a person who claimed that they were sick all the time. I found (quite easily however because of Facebook) that they just didn’t want to come to work but they sure did want me to pay them. I was the one that covered their shift most of the time — they were the closer of the building which stays open to 7 PM so I worked from 8 AM to 7 PM every time she called in sick and most of the time it was with no warning. So too bad if I had other plans! She also worked the Saturday shift. I can’t tell you how many Saturdays I personally covered for her so she could lie to my face about how sick she was. How many hours am I suppose to put in because I am management (salaried) and the other employees want to go home to their families? What about my stress level? My health? My family?

    As an employer, I don’t want to know the intimate details of my employee’s health but I would think we would be forced to keep some type of documentation for the federal government. So that adds another layer on management to keep all the paperwork, the red tape on getting people paid. In a small business environment (often with only one manager like my organization), how much extra work am I suppose to do? There is no HR department!

    The strain on the staff remaining in their positions will be intense. So what if someone else has a problem? What do I, as management do then?

    I truly care about each and every one of my employees (we are all very close) and if something terrible happened to them I would want to help. But I can envision the burn out of myself and other staff members, the complaint level from them and the complaints from the public as our work doesn’t get done and then the resentment of that employee who caused our stress level.

    Managers, small business owners, etc. are people too! Your 12 weeks off to have a baby will deeply affect them too! How much of ourselves are we suppose to give?

    1. Former Manager*

      S, sorry but problem solving is part of management. I feel for you, but when I was a manager I was making quite a bit more money than my employees. And that meant it was my job to figure this stuff out. Maybe things get de-prioritized. Maybe you find some who can be on call. Almost every other country in the world makes this work, and I promise you that there are small organizations like yours elsewhere.

      The answer is not “people continue to come into work 5 days postpartum”. Nor is the answers “managers burn themselves out”.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      How do you think alllllllllllllllll the other industrialized countries who already have mandatory paid sick leave and parental leave handle this? (And keep in mind, most of them have six months to a year for parental leave. We’re still sticking with our 12 weeks over here.)

    3. Dahlia*

      “to force an organization to hold someone’s job for 12 weeks is not realistic.”

      You know other countries already do this, right?

      We get a year or more in Canada. Clearly it’s possible.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yep. My aforementioned employer with offices in the UK would hire long-term temps for the duration of peoples’ leaves. Since such long leaves are the norm, there were people who just went from leave fill-in to leave fill-in – and, having served as a contractor myself, it’s much better when stints are longer because you can get to know the org, the people, and you have time to actually accomplish things. You can do a lot more in a year vs. 3 months.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes, we manage perfectly well to cover periods of parental leave and the world does not stop functioning. We’ve a colleague in another team in my company (Sally) on a year’s maternity leave. One of the more junior team members (Lisa) has taken over her job on a temporary basis (with a temporary pay increase) and we’ve got a contractor in to cover Lisa’s job. This gives Lisa valuable experience working at a higher level in the company which will help in her career and means that when Sally returns the work will be in a good place.

    4. Bolt33*

      If this organization cannot function if it treats employees like human beings, then the organization shouldn’t exist.

    5. UK Lawyer*

      ““to force an organization to hold someone’s job for 12 weeks is not realistic.”” LOL. The rest of the world manages to do this all the time. We have no problem managing. You can learn, America, you’re not that hopeless!

    6. pancakes*

      It sounds like it’s a pretty serious detriment to your business to be located in a place where it’s difficult to attract qualified employees. In that type of setting, it’s always going to be a problem to replace an employee who’s out on maternity leave, or ill, or caring for an ill family member, etc., regardless whether the employee benefits from new labor laws and benefits or not. It would be a problem for you and a strain on your staff right now, under the status quo, to replace an employee who was hit by a bus or similarly and suddenly unable to work, no?

      I’m not going to suggest that you consider relocating because it may be that your work is to provide services to this community, but it seems like there’s a real mismatch between the problems you describe and the problems you anticipate having if this bill passes. You already have these problems. These problems will not go away if the status quo is preserved. They might go away if, for example, your area attracted a larger base of qualified professionals, or provided training to the people who live there now, or obtained a grant or some source of funding for new equipment, training, and support (e.g., a part-time HR person shared with other businesses in the area).

    7. Metadata minion*

      You may want to consider talking to managers/small business owners in countries that have this sort of leave benefit (i.e., basically everywhere else in the world). Small rural businesses are still a thing in Canada and Europe.

    8. BellBottom*

      I deeply hope your employees are able to find jobs elsewhere, somewhere where the business won’t collapse if they have a baby or an illness.

      “How much of ourselves are we suppose [sic] to give?”
      You’re making this entirely about you. It’s not about you.

      Why don’t you look to the many countries that already have policies like this (or better)? You’re acting like this would be a catastrophic change that would topple businesses left and right. Maybe you’re just…not good at this?

    9. Self Employed*

      If there’s a national leave fund covering their pay, why can’t you pay a temp what would’ve been their wages?

    10. armchairexpert*

      Babies rarely happen without warning, so surely you could be training your temp in the lead up to that maternity leave? Or at least documenting things? You’re choosing to retain staff who can’t do some of the role, which is fine, but that’s a choice you’re making. Are you saying new mothers should leave their newborn babies and come to work, still bleeding, so that you don’t have to teach Brenda how to use email?

      Someone who’s faking sick, as you’ve just acknowledged, will do so irrespective of a new leave law. You manage it, just as you would with any other performance issue.

      This whole line of thought is such an odd argument to me. Every other country does it! Are you saying that American business owners are just far less adaptable than in other countries?

  39. I don’t post often*

    Personal story on how FMLA has impacted my life: my husband and I have one bio child. We are waiting to adopt and we’ve been waiting 3.5 years (average wait time with ouragency when we started this process was 2 years). Long story short, I’ve been unhappy with my job for 2 years BUT I couldn’t leave and go to another company because I wouldn’t be eligible for 12 weeks of leave until after working at a new company for a year. I must stay with my current company to be eligible to take leave when our baby is placed with us. That 12 weeks is vital bonding time for an adoptive family- it is likely our baby will not hear our voices until he or she is handed to us (unlike a biological child parents have the opportunity to bond with somewhat during pregnancy).
    And so here I sit. I could chance it and find a new job with a different company, but I know I wouldn’t be able to take leave.

    I will say this: current company offers new moms that deliver a baby 16 weeks paid leave. All other parents (Dads and any adoptive parents) receive 6 weeks paid.

  40. JB*

    I love this idea. I support it. However people have to understand it comes with a cost. The funds aren’t magically appearing from the government. Yes, we should have this. Ultimately individuals and businesses will be tapped to fund it. So we just have to understand that’s part of it. Nothing is truly free.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Everything comes with a price.
      I have been pointing out for a while now, that businesses can help drive down heath care costs by – you know- managing their business.

      How many times here do we see people going for counseling or medical appointments because of injury from a toxic boss, endless work hours, staggering work loads and so on. We see it right here in this column. Yet the disconnect is the size of the Grand Canyon as employers say, “Work hard, longer, grow a thick layer of skin.”

      No one is without agency here. there are many participating entities that can do things to help reduce our health care costs. Unfortunately, we have a society that ONLY understands there might be a problem when their costs go sky high. I remember my uncle pointing out that recycling will on catch on, once the price of garbage disposal is through the roof. Costs have to go crazy high in order to get people’s attention. It used to be that people would say, “Take only what you need, use enough to get the job done and not more” etc. Those pearls of wisdom are long gone and it might be time to start bringing them back.

      1. pancakes*

        Individual effort is not a feasible solution to a structural, nationwide problem.

    2. Bolt33*

      Uh, what part of this do you think needed to be said? Obviously nothing is free. Why are you acting like you made a revolutionary point?

    3. Hamish the Accountant*

      I’m not sure why you would think that people don’t understand it comes with a cost.

    4. Aitch Arr*

      I’m in Massachusetts and I will have paid in a whopping $234 in 2021 for PFML.

      I make in the low 6 figures.

    5. JB*

      Because one of the key reassuring points says “This program would be funded by the government, not employers…” as if there’s no financial concern. Of course, I don’t think the fact there’s a cost is news to everyone reading this column. Unfortunately, it’s human nature that we all want more/better fundamental services, yet balk when it comes time to pay. We face this every year in my area with roads (highways) where we DESPERATELY need improvements. Everyone agrees…until they try to fund the construction of the improvements.

      1. BellBottom*

        Saying “this program would be funded by the government, not employers” is not intended to mean that it’s a costless program. It means that the program would be funded by the government. Not employers. There’s really nothing tricky in the language. No one is saying or even hinting that it would be a costless program.

        “Unfortunately, it’s human nature that we all want more/better fundamental services, yet balk when it comes time to pay.” Human nature? As in, you think people are innately confused about the fact that programs and services are not free? That’s a rather bizarre take. I think you will find that there are many people who are willing to pay for essential programs and, obviously, understand that those programs are not free. (I won’t make an argument about whether that’s human nature because I don’t see what that has to do with anything.)

      2. Self Employed*

        It means that employers don’t need to worry that they will pay the full cost of every employee’s leave–just the equivalent of insurance premiums.

      3. pancakes*

        I’m not at all convinced that “it’s human nature” to balk at paying for more and better services, and I don’t understand how you’ve convinced yourself of it. How do you square that view with the fact that the US spends more per person on healthcare than any comparably wealthy country? (See my comment above linking to reports that assessed US healthcare “relative to 10 other high-income countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom,” for a start). How do you square it with the mindset, popular in the US, that it’s preferable to spend more money on worse outcomes than it would be to share access to more and better services with people regarded as undeserving? How do you square it with the fact that the US is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t have paid parental leave? (The World Bank and the OECD are among the entities that study this, and you can find a good summary at Pew Research, titled “Among 41 countries, only U.S. lacks paid parental leave”).

        Of course it’s entirely possible that you’re unaware of where the US stands on this stuff in relation to other wealthy countries, but if that’s the case, surely you’re aware on some level that you haven’t made an effort to learn about it? Surely if you’re going to claim that your own views are universal it makes sense to check whether that’s correct?

  41. anon for this*

    My first childbirth experience ended in a c-section; I was back to work 3 weeks, 4 days later with a wound that still wasn’t closed, and which in fact stayed that way for another 3+ weeks. FMLA didn’t exist yet.

    My second childbirth experience was a serious emergency in which but for fortunate circumstance I and the baby would have died and also the baby lived at the hospital for 18 days until he could reliably eat and breathe on his own and weighed a whopping 4.25 pounds. That time I didn’t come back to work for four WHOLE weeks. FMLA existed, but there was a mess of annoying paperwork HR wanted me to do immediately; the fact I was not conscious didn’t alter their opinion on the deadline.

    I was the person with the job that 1. made enough to pay the bills and 2. had the insurance, and like, COBRA is all well and good but it has premiums, so there we were.

  42. Anonymous1*

    As an HR professional who deals with leaves daily for a national company, and on a personal level, I support this 110%- but I am hopeful that those making these proposals pursue solutions for the “nuts & bolts” of the administrative pieces as part of the legislation. With the ever-evokving patchwork of state and jurisdictional leave laws across the U.S., plus coming off the heels of pandemic… it’s been a lot for those of us behind the scenes supporting employees. I hope they set up something similar to Canadian EI where it’s mostly hands off for employers. Do we know if the intent is that the govt would be making both leave and pay determinations like in WA and MA, or just the pay like CA? How would intermittent leave work? Etc. It’s an entirely different way of thinking about leave and I hope by thinking through these issues, it makes it easier to visualize and we can bring more on board to actually pass when it comes time to vote.

  43. Jessen*

    I had a couple questions that I didn’t see answered. How does this apply to part time workers, and how does it apply to workers who have variable income? Many of the people who need paid time off most are working (often more than one) part time job and don’t have set hours per pay period. It would be a big improvement if paid leave were extended to the many retail and fast food and other low level employees who don’t currently have access to full time work.

  44. pandop*

    Having read the comments about maternity leave in congress, we actually have a similar situation in the UK – because parliament was set up for middle-aged white men, with wives & nannies at home, it has taken a while to make it more family friendly – and pre-pandemic we had a heavily pregnant MP, being pushed in a wheelchair, to vote – despite being supposed to be on bedrest. There was provision for getting someone to cover her constituency work, but not the in-parliament voting!
    Unfortunately, the current government isn’t particularly inclined to fix this – they weren’t keen on remote participation during Covid lockdowns, and wanted to end that as soon as possible

  45. TheProblemWithEyes*

    This is great and all, but 12 weeks is WOEFULLY short for maternity leave. That’s less than 3 months! Paid leave for family emergencies etc needs to be separate from paid leave for new parents – the requirements are completely different.

    1. really?*

      “This is great and all”

      Yes, it IS great. We currently don’t have ANY. For ANYTHING. Complaining that it’s not enough, as if it’s easy to get it if only someone thought of it … I don’t know how legislators and their staffs do it.

    2. Erin*

      I agree with you here – 12 weeks is tiny. And paid emergency leave is different than maternity leave. However, this is at least a solid starting point in the right direction to implement changes into leave laws.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      O M G it’s better than 6 weeks unpaid which is what most companies in the US offer right now because that’s what’s federally required. If this bill passes, it’d be a miracle. Change is an incremental process, and each increment improves things. You can hold out for a perfect law. I’d take this one.

  46. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

    Maybe I missed it, but does would this bill help families that work fort he same company? My husband and I work for the same university, and when I had my daughter, we were told by our HR that we had to share the 12 weeks of leave since we were taking off because I had a baby.

    1. Erin*

      What the heck?? They made you share the 12 weeks? You are two separate employees! That seems all kinds of wrong to me.

  47. Erin*

    This is soooo overdue!! I’m not a parent, but heck yes I support the need to be with your baby and recover from birth/adapt to adding a child via adoption & bond with them. Also, I had a week long stint in the ICU in 2014. I was able to use FMLA, and my company paid me for time I was out. I have realized how incredibly lucky I was to have those options.

    Working parents and caregivers make up a huge population of the workforce, and everyone benefits when there is support for life events like having kids, serious illness & caring for a loved one. I especially appreciate the need to grieve after a loved one has passed away (most company bereavement policies are pretty slim.)

    I really hope this act passes. We shouldn’t have to get on those TPS reports 2 weeks after having a baby because we haven’t been with Company X for at least a year, and all we have is the 2 measly weeks of vacation that was granted in the hiring process.

  48. Elizabeth West*

    This is a good start, and it seems to include people who aren’t parents also—we often get left out of consideration for any kind of support. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

  49. Nakita Daven*

    Did you read Dave Bautista’s zombie tweets? I guess there were a bunch of Army Of The Dead zombies at WrestleMania. I guess WWE fans weren’t happy about it? Honestly, I thought it was great!

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