January 12 2014
Policy Focus: The FAMILY Act
Carrie L. Lukas
Democrat Members recently introduced legislation called the “Family and Medical Insurance Leave act” or the FAMILY Act that would dramatically expand the Family and Medical Leave act by creating a federal entitlement program to provide paid leave to qualified workers. Workers would be entitled to 60 days of family and medical leave during which they would receive two-thirds of their average pay.
Proponents argue that this inexpensive program would provide needed assistance to those who lack paid leave, and particularly benefit women by providing paid maternity leave. However, this overlooks how this program would impact existing leave programs, discourage flexible work arrangements, and reduce employment opportunities for women.
This new federal entitlement program would encourage businesses currently providing paid leave programs, including more generous leave programs, to eliminate those plans. Companies and employees would also be less likely to seek mutually beneficial arrangements, such as part-time and work-from-home options, during periods of leave. Moreover employers would have to consider the costs, including the lost productivity, associated with potential extended absences, and may be less inclined to hire women for leadership positions as a result.
Most workers already have access to paid leave. Policymakers should consider more targeted intervention to help those Americans who lack paid leave options and face potential hardship. Importantly, the best protection for American workers is a robust job market that allows them to obtain compensation packages tailored to their unique needs.