February 7, 2017 / 9:13 PM / 10 months ago

Lawmakers propose paid family leave for workers in U.S.

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Efforts to pay employees staying home to care for family in the United States got a boost on Tuesday with a legislative proposal that would benefit workers, especially women tending to children and aging parents.

The United States stands alone among developed nations with its lack of paid family leave, and the proposed Family Act would bring policy in line with other countries, supporters say.

The proposal would establish a national insurance program to provide workers with up to 12 weeks paid leave per year for the birth of a child, adoption or care for a seriously ill family member.

The United States is the only country among 41 nations that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Other nations have paid leave ranging from about two months to more than a year, OECD data shows.

The lack of paid leave in the United States hits women particularly hard.

Nearly a quarter of new U.S. mothers go back to work within two weeks of giving birth, according to Debra Ness, head of the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Women who take time off to care for children or elderly relatives lose an average of $300,000 from their lifetime earnings and retirement savings, Ness said.

The proposal introduced in the U.S. Congress has scores of co-sponsors among Democrats but none yet among the more conservative Republican party that controls both legislative houses, said lawmakers introducing the bill.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, has voiced support for six weeks paid maternity leave for biological mothers.

His proposal did not apply to men nor did it include paid leave to care for a seriously ill family member.

The Family Act would be gender-neutral and apply to adoptive parents and same-sex couples.

Funding would come from employer and employee contributions, and the average worker would pay $1.50 per week, supporters say.

“Too many American workers are not paid enough to make ends meet, and losing weeks worth of wages in order to care for and deal with the challenge of this magnitude when a loved one is ill would push families over the edge and some passed the point of no return,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, one of the lawmakers who introduced the bill.

Tuesday marked the third time the Family Act has been proposed in Congress since 2013, according to DeLauro’s office.

Previous versions failed to gain support among Republicans, the office said.

Opponents say the proposal would hurt businesses, especially small ones.

Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Astrid Zweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

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