Paid Leave Expansion Funds Offered by DOL

Author: Rena Pirsos, XpertHR Legal Editor

June 17, 2015

In support of the Obama Administration's commitment to expand American workers' access to paid leave, the US Department of Labor (DOL) announced this week that it is offering $1.25 million in grants to help state and local policymakers study the feasibility of developing paid leave programs on a national scale. So far, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, the District of Columbia and several cities have passed laws allowing paid family and medical leave or earned sick days. While this may indicate an emerging trend, the US still lags far behind most other industrialized nations.

According to DOL statistics, although millions of American workers are caregivers for both young children and aging parents, only 12% of private sector workers have access to paid family leave through an employer. In addition, many workers still cannot afford to take unpaid leave because it causes them to either lose income, or reduce their leave time due to financial or workplace pressures.

US Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said in regard to the announcement that "Too many workers across the U.S. lack even a single day of paid leave to care for their families or themselves . . . A worker shouldn't be forced to choose between employment they need and the family they love. These grants will help states and cities lead on paid leave and give more working families the flexibility they need."

The funding opportunity will be administered by the DOL's Women's Bureau, which has spearheaded a cross-country tour called "Lead on Leave: Empowering Working Families Across America." The purpose of the tour is to call attention to how flexible workplace policies, such as paid leave, can help families and businesses balance the demands of work and family and, as examples, highlight the progress that some states have already made. The DOL hopes the tour will encourage other states and cities to do the same.

The priorities, evaluation factors and application guidance for up to 10 competitive grants are outlined in the Funding Opportunity Announcement. In the words of Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, "These grants will encourage the development of programs that will benefit businesses and enable all workers, especially those in low wage jobs, to take time off to care for themselves and their families without risking their economic security."