Last week, Marco Rubio became the first Republican presidential candidate to release a paid family leave proposal, but the reviews haven’t been very favorable.
Unlike the proposals floated by Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, Rubio’s plan disdains any government mandates, and instead advocates giving tax incentives so businesses will offer it to their employees.
“I can barely use the word ‘plan’ here, because what Marco Rubio has laid out for paid leave wouldn’t do a thing to help women and families,” snarled Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a conference call on Wednesday. “Basically instead of requiring employers to allow workers to take paid time off for the birth of a child, Marco Rubio would cross his fingers that employers would choose to provide paid leave for his employees.”
The only law on the books right now in the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act, gives workers 12 weeks of leave for a serious health condition or birth or for tending to an ailing family member, but it’s unpaid. It applies to companies with more than 50 employees and covers only about 50 percent of workers.
Wasserman Schultz took aim at the fact that paid leave would only be optional for employees under the Rubio proposal, saying “many” companies wouldn’t choose to provide it.
Two years ago, Connecticut Democrat U.S. Rep. Rose DeLauro and New York Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would provide all workers—regardless of company size and including part-time, lower-wage, and self-employed workers—two-thirds of their income for up to 12 weeks in the event of serious illness, after childbirth, or to care for a seriously ill relative. It would be self-funded by employee and employer contributions of 0.2 percent of wages each.
“Marco Rubio has described the absence of family paid leave as one of the greatest threats to the family today,” DeLauro said on the conference call. “That’s a fine sentiment; however, they do nothing to address the problem.”
Rubio’s plan would provide a 25 percent tax credit to employers who voluntarily offer at least four weeks of paid family leave. Employers would be limited to $4,000 in tax credits per employee per year, with a limit of 12 weeks of leave. Congresswoman DeLauro says this is just another example of of Republican philosophy to subsidize the employer, rather than allowing all employees to get paid family and medical leave. “Tax credits have a long history of failing to change employer behavior on everything from hiring veterans to providing child care,” she said.
The United States is one of only seven countries, out of 188 for which data is available, that does not guarantee paid maternity leave.