Biden Proposes Plan to Guarantee 12 Weeks of Paid Family and Medical Leave

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

May 4, 2021

A first-of-its-kind nationwide comprehensive paid family and medical leave program would be in the offing under President Biden's ambitious American Families Plan, announced in an address to Congress last week.

The plan would guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid leave for US workers within 10 years. It will ensure workers receive partial wage replacement to take time off to:

  • Bond with a new child;
  • Care for a seriously ill loved one;
  • Deal with a loved one's military deployment;
  • Find safety from domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault;
  • Heal from an employee's own serious illness; or
  • Take time to deal with the death of a loved one.

The program would provide workers with up to $4,000 a month, with at least two-thirds of their average weekly wages replaced. That total would increase to 80% for the lowest-wage workers. In addition, it will ensure workers get three days of bereavement leave beginning in the first year of the program.

In rolling out the plan, the administration noted that state paid leave laws have helped working families and said this federal measure would:

  • Reduce racial disparities in wage loss between workers of color and white workers;
  • Improve child health and well-being;
  • Improve employee retention and reduce turnover costs; and
  • Increase women's overall participation in the workforce.

The President also is urging Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which will require employers to allow workers to use seven paid sick leave days per year to seek preventative care for themselves or to care for a family member. The White House noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for a national paid sick leave policy.

While federal paid leave is not currently mandated, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), signed by President Biden on March 11, provided additional funding for tax credits to covered employers that offer paid COVID-19 leave through September 2021. ARPA also expanded the reasons under which employees can take paid leave.

The US remains one of the few developed countries that does not guarantee workers paid time off for having a new child or dealing with an illness. However, Biden's permanent paid leave law proposal could face an uphill struggle in the evenly divided Senate.