Senate Republicans including Mike Lee (Utah), Marco Rubio (Florida), and Joni Ernst (Iowa) are talking up a new proposal from the Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative economic policy shop, to establish a mechanism for US parents to access paid leave without creating additional costs for their employers by deferring their Social Security benefits in retirement, the Hill reports:
According to IWF’s six-page proposal, parents could take up to 12 weeks and receive on average 45 percent of their pay in a Social Security parental benefit that’s calculated using the same formula as Social Security disability benefits. The IWF estimates the average wage worker would receive $1,175 per month.
Lee said lawmakers are trying to figure out how to structure benefits so they are delivered to families when they need them, how the federal law should interact with state paid leave laws and how to keep the law from hastening the Social Security Trust Fund’s 2034 insolvency date.
Several House Democrats released statements criticizing the proposal, calling it “woefully insufficient” and arguing that working Americans should not have to forgo Social Security benefits to spend time with their newborn children. Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro also insisted that “any paid leave plan that reflects the needs of working people and families must address the need to deal with a personal or family member’s serious illness.”
The US is the only industrialized nation and one of only three countries in the world not to mandate paid time off for new parents, though the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees mothers the right to unpaid leave during pregnancy and after childbirth. Many US employers, including the 20 largest private employers, offer some amount of paid parental leave, but millions of Americans lack access to this benefit.
The IWF plan is the latest of several policy proposals to fix the problem of unequal access to paid parental leave and other forms of paid time off in the US while assuaging conservative anxieties about increasing costs to employers or the federal government. Last June, the conservative American Enterprise Institute and the liberal Brookings Institution issued a bipartisan proposal for a national parental leave policy that would entitle both mothers and fathers to eight weeks’ leave paid at 70 percent of their wages for eight weeks after the birth or adoption of a child, with guaranteed job protection, paid for by a payroll tax on employees and cuts in other areas of federal spending.
Other federal policy initiatives have sought to protect employers from the proliferation of laws and regulations at the state and local level. Last April, the HR Policy Association proposed a law that would protect multi-state employers from these local mandates as long as their paid family and medical leave offerings meet a minimum federal standard, but without a blanket mandate that businesses meet that standard. With regard to paid leave in general, House Republicans put forward a bill in November, supported by SHRM and other major business groups, that would encourage companies provide two to three weeks of paid time off by exempting them from stricter state and local mandates as long as they comply with the federal policy.