Last week, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would provide qualified federal employees with up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave. This measure enjoys rare bipartisan support, and is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Trump. The law only covers childbirth, adoptions and placement for foster care, and does not extend to other reasons for unpaid FMLA leave such as serious health conditions.
While this law only affects a small portion of the overall U.S. workforce, it sets the stage for additional legislative proposals that would expand it to the private sector, as well as to other leaves covered under the FMLA. A number of states have passed or have under consideration a variety of mandatory paid leave laws, and the new federal legislation may spur additional efforts.
Congressional objections to paid leave for private sector workers center not on the leave concept, but instead on how it would be paid for. Should private sector employers be required to cover such costs, or should employees bear some portion of the expense through insurance premiums or borrowing against Social Security or federal tax breaks? Given that the U.S. is among the few developed nations that does not provide paid parental leave, Congress is likely to face continuing pressure to address the needs of new parents and their children.