Paid family leave: what you need to know now

Headline: Paid family leave: what you need to know now

Today’s “average” American family is evolving. There are fewer households with a full-time stay-at-home parent than in years past. Men are more active as family caregivers.1 And more families are caring for both children and aging parents.2 Yet the U.S. does not have a national paid family leave (PFL) program to support this changing workplace dynamic.

Many employers make up for this deficit by piecing together other benefits — including paid sick leave, short-term disability insurance and paid time off — to help meet employees’ needs. However, employers across the country are taking it upon themselves to develop their own paid parental or paid family leave program. With employees and employers alike calling for change, here’s what you need to know to stay current on the ever-changing topic of paid family leave.

What is paid family leave?
Not to be confused with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which gives an employee the right to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, PFL programs generally provide job-protected paid leave for:

  • A serious illness
  • Bonding with a newborn or newly adopted child
  • Caring for a close relative with a health condition
  • Helping relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service

PFL programs also differ from paid parental leave programs. A paid parental leave program solely provides time for both men and women to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child.

The push for PFL
The PFL movement is gaining momentum in a number of ways:

  • National legislation. Currently, there is a push for PFL legislation on a national level. The proposed Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would provide eligible workers up to 12 weeks of partial income replacement (at least two-thirds pay) for qualifying events.
  • Statutory laws. Some states are taking it upon themselves to mandate PFL benefits. New Jersey, Rhode Island and California have programs in force while New York, Washington and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to implement them.3 In New York, PFL coverage falls under the disability policy that an employer must carry under the New York Disability Benefits Law. When PFL takes effect in New York on Jan. 1, 2018, benefits will be administered by the employer’s existing Disability Benefits Law provider.
  • Individual employers. While only a handful of U.S. employers currently offer benefits, the trend toward offering proactive PFL is on the rise. In growing numbers, employers aren’t waiting for national or even statutory legislation to implement PFL programs. A survey conducted in conjunction with the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) recently assessed the stance of employers on PFL benefits. Of those surveyed, 68 percent said their organization provided PFL benefits, though only 46 percent said they were required by law to do so.4

Why employers are acting now
In the current employment climate, attracting and keeping top talent is one of the top priorities for organizational growth. Offering PFL is a way for organizations to compete in what is becoming a tougher job market for employers. Not only can PFL help with employee retention, these policies can demonstrate an organization’s commitment to its employees and increase employees’ overall engagement, morale and productivity.

The conversation around PFL shows no signs of subsiding. In a future post, we’ll discuss best practices and other considerations for adding PFL to your own program.

About guest blogger Breanna Scott
Breanna Scott, product and service management director with Standard Insurance Company (The Standard), guides the strategic development of The Standard’s product portfolio, including market analysis and product positioning. She leads the group insurance product team responsible for creating and refining The Standard’s employee benefits and voluntary product and service offerings.

[1] The American family today, Pew Research Center, December 2015, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/1-the-american-family-today/

[2] 5 facts about family caregivers, Pew Research Center, November 2015, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/18/5-facts-about-family-caregivers/

[3] Based on National Partnership for Women & Families and individual state legislative statutes as of May 6, 2017.

[4] DMEC Pulse Webinar Survey, 2017.

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