Paid Leave Under the American Families Plan
The Biden Administration’s recently-announced American Families Plan could have a significant impact on employers. While much of the attention of that initiative has been focused on the pre-school and postsecondary education programs, there is a component that would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to workers in a variety of situations. Those situations include “time to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill loved one, deal with a loved one’s military deployment, find safety from sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence, heal from their own serious illness, or take time to deal with the death of a loved one.” While similar to FMLA leave, it goes well beyond the current statute, not just making those 12 weeks paid but also expanding the circumstances under which leave is available. Notably, it does not appear at this point to be limited to a primary caregiver or new mother that gives birth to a child, so it would be available to both parents of newborn or newly-adopted children. There is also a component of bereavement leave that would require employers to provide three days of paid leave when employees experience the loss of a relative. The proposal currently provides for replacement of a minimum of two-thirds of average weekly wages, with that figure rising up to 80% for workers on the lower end of the wage spectrum. The benefits are also capped at a maximum of $4,000 per month.
Not surprisingly, Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal and it does not currently have any Republican support. To become law, the plan would need a majority vote in the House and 60 votes in the Senate, or alternatively it would need to pass with 51 votes in the Senate through the “reconciliation” process. If Democrats opt to implement the reconciliation process, it stands a good chance of being voted into law. Employers should keep an eye on this process, and begin forecasting various budget scenarios in the event the American Families Plan is indeed passed.