Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., on Thursday announced an effort to extend paid family and medical leave to employees.
The so-called Family (Family and Medical Insurance Leave) Act would create a national insurance program through the Social Security Administration to collect fees and distribute benefits. Employees and employers would contribute 0.2 percent of income to the fund, which Gillibrand and DeLauro equate to "the expense of a cup of coffee" each week.
"When a young parent needs time to care for a newborn child—it should never come down to an outdated policy that lets her boss decide how long it will take—and decide the fate of her career and her future along with it," Gillibrand said in a press release. "When any one of us—man or woman—needs time to care for a dying parent—we should not have to sacrifice our job and risk our future to do the right thing for our family. Choosing between your loved ones and your career and your future is a choice no one should have to make."
Gillibrand and DeLauro's proposal in part addresses a long-held criticism of the Clinton administration's Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in the event of personal or family illness, death, adoption, and pregnancy. Only 12 percent of Americans have access to employer-provided, job-protected paid leave, and taking time off can be more financially burdensome for hourly-wage workers than salaried employees.