On September 7, the House Ways and Means Committee released bill text that includes a new national, universal paid medical and family leave plan. This bill represents just one portion of the expected $3.5 trillion social spending bill that will advance President Biden’s legislative agenda.
The bill is extensive, but employers should be particularly aware of the following provisions:
- Beginning in July 2023, the bill provides up to 12 weeks of federal benefits to replace lost wages due to time off for medical leave or caregiving for an ill family member. While the bill appears to follow the contours of the FMLA in terms of leave events, notably it goes beyond the FMLA by including a much broader definition of covered family members. Bereavement would also qualify, but it is limited to three work days maximum.
- The program covers all workers including full-time and part-time workers, independent contractors, and public and private sector workers. It also applies without regard to employer size, although employers with fewer than 50 workers may be eligible for assistance grants.
- Eligible workers can apply for benefits if they have at least 4 caregiving hours in a week.
- Benefits will be awarded based on a sliding scale of wage replacement. Benefits would replace 85% of lost wages for the lowest-income workers and gradually decrease, replacing just 5% of wages for workers earning up to $250,000.
- Those states that have already enacted paid family and medical leave programs may continue operating those programs, and the House proposal offers federal grants to reimburse those program costs.
- Employers may be able to seek reimbursement for operating a plan that is as good or better than the public plan and meets a lengthy set of requirements related to the plan.