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Election '08: Candidates pledge support for working families
December 2007

Expanding the FMLA | Paid Family & Medical Leave | Paid Sick Days

Expand the Family & Medical Leave Act:
Current Provisions:
The FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for childbirth and infant care, an employee's own serious health condition, or to care for a spouse, parent, or child with a serious health condition. The FMLA presently covers workers who 1) work for a business with 50 or more employees, 2) have worked for the same employer for 12 months, and 3) have worked a minimum of 1250 hours in the 12 months prior to leave-taking. Only 60 percent of U.S. workers are both covered and eligible for FMLA leave. Some state family and medical leave laws provide additional protections, including coverage for workers in businesses with less than 50 employees, longer periods of job-protected leave, and/or expanding caretaking leave to cover domestic partners or extended family.

Hillary Clinton:

Barack Obama: John Edwards:
Expand FMLA to cover businesses with 25 or more employees.

Expand FMLA to cover businesses with 25 or more employees;

Expand provisions for elder care leave (details not specified);

Allow parents to take up to 24 hours of leave each year for children's academic activities;

Allow leave to care for individuals who have lived in employee's household for six months or more;

Allow workers to take leave related to domestic violence and sexual assault against themselves, their children or their parents.

Expand FMLA to cover business with 25 or more employees

Cover more part-time workers.
Only Obama's proposal explicitly expands FMLA to parents who need time off for children's school activities and workers who need time to care for partners and family members who are not covered under the current law.
Creating Paid Family & Medical Leave:

Current Provisions:
The United States is the only wealthy nation in the world which does not guarantee paid childbirth leave. Of the 169 countries world-wide that provide paid childbirth leave, 98 (58 percent) offer more than 14 weeks of paid, job-protected leave. Many high-income countries also provide paid paternal leave and paid leave for long-term illness. Across the U.S., only 8 percent of all private sector workers, and 5 percent of low-income workers, have access to paid maternity leave through their employers. In the states, only California has successfully implemented paid parental leave. Washington State passed a bill guaranteeing 5 weeks of paid parental leave In 2007-- but state legislators must develop and approve a funding mechanism by 2009, and opponents are working to delay implementation of the bill.

Recent studies suggest that longer, paid childbirth leaves reduce infant mortality and improve developmental outcomes, while shorter, unpaid leaves do not.
Hillary Clinton: Barack Obama: John Edwards:
Will commit 1 billion dollars to a Family Leave Innovation Fund to encourage development of state-level leave programs, with the goal of having all states provide coverage by 2016.
Clinton's plan would "support all approaches to providing more leave to employees including through Temporary Disability Insurance or Unemployment Insurance programs, expansion of direct support programs like At Home Infant Care, or through individual and business tax credits."
Will commit 1.5 billion dollars to assist states with start-up costs of adopting paid leave systems and provide states with technical assistance through the Department of Labor. Will create a 2 billion dollar National Family Trust to assist states with developing paid leave programs, with the goal of having all states provide coverage by 2014. Rather than subsidizing tax credits or employer incentives, the National Family Trust will support states that offer minimum benefits, including 8 weeks of leave for new parents. Edwards will also make the federal government a model employer with a generous paid leave benefit.

Of the leading Democratic candidates' plans, only Edwards' proposal comes close to assuring that employees who need family and medical leave will have access to an adequate duration of leave. To be effective as a substitute for a national family leave insurance program, federal guidelines for state-level initiatives must limit the use of funds for private sector incentives, assure that state leave programs cover the same instances leave taking allowed under the FMLA, and establish a federal baseline for minimum leave length and wage replacement rates.

Paid Sick Days:
Current Provisions:
World-wide, 145 countries provide paid sick days for short- or long-term illness, with 136 providing a week or more annually. In the United States, sick days are provided at employers' discretion, and employers who offer paid sick days to professional and managerial employees as part of a benefits package are not required to provide sick days to all workers. Half of all private sector workers, and three-quarters of low-wage workers, do not have a single day of paid sick leave, and 80 percent of private sector workers do not have a single day of paid sick leave that can be used to care for a sick child.
Hillary Clinton: Barack Obama: John Edwards:
Guarantee a minimum of seven paid sick days annually. Guarantee a minimum of seven paid sick days annually.

Guarantee a minimum of seven paid sick days annually;

Extend coverage to part-time workers.

The candidates' proposals are consistent with the legislative goals of the Healthy Families Act.
Tables & text:

Democratic front-runners pledge support for working families

Table 1:
Expanding the FMLA | Paid Family & Medical Leave | Paid Sick Days

Table 2:
Child Care & Afterschool Care | Universal Preschool

Table 3:
Workplace Flexibility | Family Responsibilities Discrimination | Additional Provisions

All tables - print version (.pdf)

mmo : december 2007

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