To ship paid go away, pair confirmed public coverage with private-market outcomes

Over the past year, millions of working adults have faced a dilemma: earning a paycheck or leaving work to care for a child or a sick relative. The challenges they face indicate threats to Americans’ financial security and the nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

Congressional and administrative leaders have taken note of it and made expanded access to paid family and sick leave a leading priority for working Americans.

The good news is that achieving this essential policy goal does not require the creation of a new government entitlement program. The basis for a national paid family and sick leave program is already in place.

Since 1993, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has required employers to give employees 12 weeks of leave for medical care or the care of a newborn, among other things. Workers who take vacation do not lose their jobs, but they are not paid for the time they are not working.

In addition to the FMLA, disability insurers provide income protection to more than half of the US civilian population. Today, these employer-provided benefits reach 62 million workers with an annual disability claim of approximately $ 20 billion. This includes an increasing percentage of family paid leave as the demand for these benefits increases. Insurers also work closely with employers to manage paid and sick leave programs. And they help disabled consumers get back to work and manage employee assistance programs.

These two proven models of success form the foundation of paid family vacations for all Americans, regardless of how and where they work. They can take shape in three ways:

  • Legislators could add a paid vacation component to the FMLA that employers finance themselves or through private insurance.
  • For small businesses with fewer than 50 employees who are not required to offer vacation under the FMLA, a paid vacation initiative may amend federal law to allow groups of smaller employers to pool resources and offer paid vacation benefits to their employees. It could also provide tax incentives for creating paid vacation plans. This could reduce the administrative burden that discourages employers from offering paid vacation and enable the automatic enrollment of workers on paid vacation plans.
  • A federal effort could be public-private partnerships to provide independent workers and “gig” workers with access to paid vacation benefits, a challenge most government programs have failed to meet.

The need for innovative and effective paid vacation policies has been greatly relieved by COVID, turning working adults into homecare providers for newborns or sick family members.

This burden has fallen disproportionately for women, and the result is reflected in data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. An estimated 2.3 million women have left the workforce since February 2020, compared to 1.8 million men.

The pain of a lost paycheck for families is profound and immediate. The consequences of not addressing this problem are even greater. An October 2020 report by the Center for American Progress concluded that “if conditions for families do not improve – and if maternal labor force participation and working hours are in the midst of the peak of the first wave of infections and COVID-19 lockdowns.” April 2020 Long-term – Wage losses would amount to 64.5 billion US dollars per year. “

The need for action is clear. Wide-ranging support for FMLA and private sector insurance and administrative services that have proven their worth for employers and employees with paid vacation benefits is an ideal way to help manage this moment.

Susan K. Neely is President and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers.

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