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President Biden’s New Budget Proposes National Paid Leave Program

Exterior shot of the White House in Washington D.C.

After touting paid leave in his State of the Union address last week, President Joe Biden revealed his plan to establish a national paid family and medical leave program in his 2025 budget proposal, released this week.

Biden’s budget, revealed Monday, would establish a national paid family and medical leave program administered by the Social Security Administration. It would provide eligible employees up to 12 weeks of leave to care for and bond with a new child; care for a seriously ill loved one; heal from their own serious illness; address circumstances arising from a loved one’s military deployment; or find safety from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, according to the administration.

Biden also wants to require employers to provide seven job-protected paid sick days each year to all workers. The budget also includes measures restoring the expanded Child Tax Credit, establishing an “affordable” child care program for families earning less than $200,000, strengthening Medicare drug-pricing negotiations, taking aim at child labor, and more.

This isn’t the first time Biden has called for or proposed a national paid-leave program—he has done so throughout his presidency, but previous efforts have gone nowhere.

Biden’s budget items, including a national paid-leave program, will likely not become law due to a divided Congress, but they do perhaps signal his agenda’s key areas of focus for a second term, if elected in November. It also opens up a larger conversation around paid leave.

SHRM, which has also called for expanded access to paid leave for more workers, said it “appreciates the President’s call for national paid-leave policies that reflect the modern world of work.”

“We look forward to working with the administration and Congress to modernize our workplace laws, address inequities and better enable employers to offer crisis support for their workers,” said Emily M. Dickens, SHRM chief of staff and head of public affairs. “To that end, we are actively engaging with the Congressional bipartisan Bicameral Paid-Leave Working Group to propose a voluntary insurance-based solution for employers to offset the costs associated with self-funding. As always, SHRM is committed to elevating the collective experience and expertise of our membership to assist Congress in creating policies that protect work, workers and the workplace.” 

The topic of paid family and medical leave for employees has been a hot one, with several industry insiders arguing for such a measure. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993—requires some employers to provide job-protected unpaid leave to employees who need to be absent for qualifying medical, pregnancy, new-child bonding or military-related reasons, the U.S. is one of few industrialized countries not to offer national paid family or medical leave. Some states and cities have enacted their own family and medical leave laws.

[SHRM resource: What You Need to Know About the FMLA]

While a national paid-leave program doesn’t exist in the U.S., many employers have made their own strides in recent years.

More than a quarter of all private industry workers (27 percent) have access to paid family leave, up from 24 percent who had access to the benefit in 2022, according to data out last fall from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And SHRM’s 2023 Employee Benefits Survey found that significant progress has been made in parental-leave and family-leave benefits programs over the past year. Paid maternity and paternity leave each saw 5-percentage-point jumps from 2022 to 2023 and are now offered by 40 percent and 32 percent of employers, respectively, SHRM’s report found. Simultaneously, paid parental leave is now offered by roughly 4 in 10 employers (39 percent), a 6-point jump from last year, according to this year’s survey. Paid adoption leave also jumped by 6 percentage points, with about a third of employers (34 percent) now offering it, and paid foster child leave is now offered by 25 percent of employers, representing a 3-percentage-point increase.


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