Congressional Statement for House Committee on Ways and Means

TIME’S UP Urges Congress to Pass a National Paid Leave Program

Changing Laws & Policy, Equity, Federal Policy, TIME'S UP Impact Lab


TIME’S UP submitted the following statement to the House Ways and Means Committee on February 10, 2020: 

Dear Chairman Neal,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit a statement for the January 28, 2020 House Committee on Ways and Means hearing on Legislative Proposals for Paid Family and Medical Leave. We value the opportunity to contribute to the Committee’s consideration of this important subject matter.

As an organization, TIME’S UP has a bold but simple vision: a world where work is safe, fair, and dignified. Born in response to a global cascade of voices that revealed the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, assault, and retaliation in the workplace, we have learned that sexual harassment is a symptom of broad systemic and cultural power imbalances that keep women from realizing their true potential at work. To counteract those imbalances, TIME’S UP is determined to call out gender-based inequity and discrimination at work and advocate for solutions to achieve gender equity at work.

The passage of a national paid family and medical leave program is core to our mission to ensure that workplaces support the needs of families and caregivers. In the United States, just 19 percent of all civilian workers have access to paid family and medical leave, and our country is one of only two countries that offers no paid family leave. While the federal Family and Medical Leave Act was an historic step forward in 1993 when President Clinton signed it into law, it provided only unpaid leave, and roughly 40 percent of workers are ineligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act due to restrictions related to employer size, hours worked, and other eligibility requirements. All told, lost wages from lack of access to paid family leave alone costs workers over $20 billion per year.

The lack of paid family and medical leave in the United States hurts all working families; however, the impact is felt most acutely by women – particularly women in low-wage jobs and women of color – who shoulder a disproportionate amount of caregiving responsibilities. Sixty percent of all caregiving is provided by women and more than half of women caregivers are employed.

A national paid family and medical leave program is necessary to respond to the 21st century experiences of women in the workforce. Women now represent over half of the U.S. workforce, the number of single mother and dual-earner households has been trending upward, and the majority of mothers with young children are now in the labor force. To make matters more difficult, the lack of paid leave places a financial burden on working women that is exacerbated by a persistent pay gap, which results in up to one million dollars in lost wages for working women.

The time to pass a national program that supports working women and families is now. This hearing marks one of several held this Congress on the issue. Eight states have now passed a paid family and medical leave program. Major U.S. companies have also led the way in implementing comprehensive and generous paid leave programs that result in higher employee retention and reduced turnover among working mothers.

And due to the tireless work of advocacy organizations and the leadership of members of Congress like Adam Smith and Rosa DeLauro, 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers is part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. This important step will benefit 2.1 million federal employees and set a standard for private employers that could impact millions more.

The mounting attention to paid leave is creating a critical tipping moment to pass a national program. However, it is important to note that not all paid leave proposals are created equally. A paid family and medical leave program that serves all workers, particularly the most vulnerable would:

  • Apply to all workers, regardless of the size of their employer and the number of hours they work;
  • Cover both caregiving responsibilities and medical leave and include an expansive family definition;
  • Provide an adequate wage replacement rate and job protection, so it is equitable and inclusive; and
  • Ensure that families do not have to borrow against future benefits to provide care for their family members in the present.

For these reasons, we support the FAMILY Act, a comprehensive plan that demonstrates a commitment to supporting women and working families. We must ensure that our workplace policies address the structural barriers that hold women back and create a new paradigm that allows women and working families to thrive.

We urge the committee to consider the FAMILY Act and help ensure a comprehensive and expansive proposal is brought to the House floor for a vote.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Klein, Chief Strategy and Policy Officer


TIME'S UP Now

TIME’S UP™ Now insists upon safe, fair, and dignified work for women of all kinds. We work to make sure women are free from harassment and other forms of discrimination on the job, have equal opportunity for economic security, and can achieve the highest positions of power wherever they work. TIME’S UP Now is an independent, nonpartisan, and not-for-profit 501(c)(4) charitable organization that works for change across culture, companies, and laws.