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Trump’s Paid Family Leave Plan: What It Is, and What It Isn’t

With the release of President Trump’s 2019 fiscal year budget proposal on Monday, we have a better outline of the White House’s paid family leave plan. This plan was mentioned specifically in the President’s State of the Union Address last month, and now explicitly in the budget proposal.

What It Is:

The White House proposes a “fully paid-for” plan which, unlike recent proposals by Sen. Marco Rubio and Ivanka Trump, is not funded by shifted social security benefits. Rather, the plan is to be funded – in conjunction with state governments – through the unemployment insurance regime.  Thus, it is still a “big government” plan, but not as much a big, federal government plan.

The plan calls for 6 weeks paid leave for mothers and fathers.  Given that the vast majority of states have no paid family leave for either parent, a mechanism for paid leave for both parents is progressive.  That said, the contents of a budget proposal don’t amount to law until approved by legislators (in the form of their choosing), signed by the President, and appropriations are made.

At this point, you may be saying “this plan sounds familiar” – part of it was included in the FY 2018 White House budget, but there was no mention of paid family leave in the massive Schumer-McConnell FY 2018 budget act signed into law last week. Theoretically, the 2018 plan could resurface in DOL appropriations, but that seems unlikely.

What the Plan Isn’t:

The 2019 paid family leave plan is not “paid FMLA.” It is only six weeks, and only supports parents attending to children as a result of childbirth.  Therefore, the largest portion of the FMLA population – those taking FMLA leave related to a family member’s or their own illness – are left out of this plan, by design.

The plan also doesn’t do anything to stop other legislation in the works. That includes the aforementioned Rubio-Ivanka initiative (although that seems somewhat at odds with the White House proposal, at least structurally) and the much more robust Democrat-led FAMILY Act proposal (which is much more like “paid FMLA”).

Mandatory paid leave has gained more traction in the last few years than ever before, but still has a long way to go before becoming the law of the land. We will continue to monitor and comment on any new developments.

Demetri Economou is an associate in KRCL’s Labor & Employment Practice Group, based in Houston. Should you have any questions about this or other legal issue, please contact Demetri at