Paid Leave Likely to Cause Heated Debate in Congress

Despite bipartisan support, paid family leave is likely to lead to a fight in Congress as Democratic and GOP lawmakers disagree over the details which are to be included in the legislative proposal. Last week, several Republican Representatives proposed a bill which would enable employers to voluntarily offer a guaranteed minimum level of paid leave to both part-time and full-time employees.

The legislation, however, was criticized by the National Partnership for Women & Families, arguing that it blocks local laws pertaining to sick leave and gives employers the right to deny paid leave when it interrupts the operating of a business.

On the other hand, Representative Bradley Byrne applauded Workflex, as the bill is known, claiming it offers “employers who are operating across state lines a common set of rules, because when you’re having to comply with different laws in different states, it makes it very difficult for an employer to offer anything.”

Democrats showed their initial support of the proposal, hailing it as a breakthrough for women. Representative Carolyn Maloney, who proposed a similar bill earlier this year, expressed her enthusiasm about the GOP proposing such a bill and the support it was receiving. However, when told that state and local sick leave laws would be obstructed, Maloney questioned the bill.

“I have questions about any legislation that puts a ceiling on the rights of women.”

Other Democrats objected the bill as well because it does not allow state and local governments to demand more paid leave days than the federal government. Representative Jerrold Nadler said this pre-emption is something Democrats cannot supports as it is damaging to working people.

However, people familiar with the Republican bill note that it would offer more paid leave than before and would not impact the 12 weeks of unpaid leave employees are already entitled to. Sources add that even though the bill is not the best option, it would offer some kind of paid leave without burdening businesses at the same time. In case the bill was passed, employers would pay for the leave, while the exact amount would be calculated based on the size of the company and the employee’s years of service.

White House advisor, Ivanka Trump, on the other hand, is pushing another plan, which complicates matters even further. She is asking for obligatory six weeks of paid leave which would be provided to parents by the state as part of unemployment benefits. Representative Mark Meadows said Ivanka Trump’ policy “has some merit.”

“She makes a very compelling case and certainly she has been extremely tenacious in her reaching out to members both in the House and in the Senate.”

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