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Below, we will explore the current status of paid family leave in the United States of America in 2023, delving into the existing policies and initiatives and proposed bills or laws that seek to support or modify paid family leave in the coming years.

Status of Paid Family Leave at the Employer Level

At the employer level, the landscape of paid family leave varies significantly. While some forward-thinking companies have embraced the importance of supporting their employees during significant life events, such as the birth or adoption of a child, others lag in implementing comprehensive paid leave policies. Other employers offer considerable perks for work-life balance. All employees should investigate their employer’s paid family leave policies.

Employers should consider providing voluntary policies or options for employees needing time off to care for themselves or a family member. Companies that provide paid family leave can benefit from improved morale, productivity, and a more loyal workforce.

Status of Paid Family Leave at the Federal Level

On the federal level, the United States has historically lagged behind many other developed nations regarding paid family leave policies. As of 2021, only eight states and the District of Columbia have passed laws guaranteeing paid family leave. These include California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Washington.

These state laws vary regarding the length of leave and other provisions, such as partial wage replacement to eligible workers who need time off to care for a new child, a seriously ill family member, or their own serious health condition. In addition, several cities and counties have also passed their own paid family leave ordinances. However, there have been notable developments aimed at addressing this issue. 

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Companies with 50 or more employees must comply. Eligible employees are entitled to:

  • Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
    • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
    • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
    • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
    • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
    • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or
  • Twenty-six work weeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).

Efforts to support paid family leave on a federal level have gained momentum in recent years. The possibility of a federal paid family leave plan is gaining traction in Congress. But given the current partisan divide, it’s unclear if any legislation will pass or if the status of paid family leave in 2023 will be any different than it is today.

  • The proposed FAMILY Act (Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act) entitles every employee to a family and medical leave insurance (FMLI) monthly benefit payment of two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay, limited to a maximum of $4,000, for not more than 60 days of qualified caregiving. The bill establishes the Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave within the Social Security Administration to administer the FMLI program. An FMLI benefit payment must be coordinated with periodic benefits received under a state or local temporary disability insurance or family leave program. The bill taxes employers, employees, and self-employed individuals to fund FMLI benefits. It also establishes the Federal Family and Medical Leave Insurance Trust Fund to hold tax revenues.
  • The American Family Act of 2021 modifies the child tax credit to (1) make the credit fully refundable, (2) increases the amount of the credit and allow an additional credit for children who are under six years of age, (3) requires the amount of the credit to be adjusted annually for inflation, and (4) requires the Department of the Treasury to establish a program for making advance payments of the credit every month.

Conclusion

In the current political climate, predicting the future status of paid family leave is difficult. But hopefully, with continued advocacy and awareness, we can ensure that workers have access to the leave they need to care for themselves and their families.

A national paid leave policy would be valuable for working mothers, especially single mothers caring for older family members or living in multigenerational households. Since they typically have only their salaries for support, they cannot count on a spouse to pay their bills while taking time off work to care for a friend’s child.