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190-plus companies urge Congress to pass paid family leave

An illustration of a building with people visible in the windows.
Only 17% of employees had access to paid leave through their employers in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
(Rose Wong / For The Times)

More than 190 U.S. companies — including Eventbrite Inc., Patagonia Inc. and Pinterest Inc. — are urging congressional leaders to pass a federal paid family and medical leave policy.

The memo sent Tuesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) calls for Congress to work with the White House to include permanent paid leave in the $3-trillion Build Back Better recovery plan the Biden administration is preparing to roll out.

The letter calls for “an equitable and comprehensive paid family and medical leave program” that includes “time to welcome a newly arrived child, time to care for a seriously ill family member, and time to care for one’s own serious illness.” It doesn’t specify how much time off or how the leave should be funded.

“Making paid leave a reality for all Americans is an economic necessity,” Schumer said in an emailed statement. “Not having to choose between your job and taking care of a new child or a sick family member would be a real breakthrough for everyday Americans.”

He did not indicate that he would support a paid-leave proposal in the next spending bill.

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The California Legislature on Thursday voted to expand paid sick leave for about 10.4 million workers, sending a bill to Gov. Gavin Newsom that mandates up to two weeks of paid time off for circumstances including COVID-19 symptoms or scheduling a vaccine.

Software company Atlassian Inc., Salesforce.com Inc., Spotify Technology and brands by Lady Gaga, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Garner and Kristen Bell are among the companies endorsing the letter spearheaded by nonprofit Paid Leave for the United States. Many large corporations already provide paid time off to new parents.

“It’s about seeing this expanded to other companies” that can’t afford it, said David Hanrahan, chief human resources officer at Eventbrite.

“With an equal paid leave policy in place, we can help stem the historic tide of women leaving the workforce and ensure that low-wage earners and people of color have the time they need to care for themselves and their families,” the letter says.

More than 2 million U.S. women have left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, in part because of a lack of child care and the demands of home-schooling.

The United States is an outlier among developed nations in not providing paid time off for new parents, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Democrats and Republicans have drafted various leave proposals, but the parties disagree on size, scope and funding.

Fifteen states — including California — and Washington, D.C., have passed laws requiring employers to offer paid time off. Still, only 17% of employees had access to paid leave through their employers in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A recent report by Paid Leave for the United States found 75% of businesses support a national paid leave plan.

The $1.9-trillion stimulus package signed into law this month included a voluntary provision for businesses with fewer than 500 employees to offer paid time off for COVID-19 related reasons through a tax relief credit. Annie Sartor, a senior director at Paid Leave for the United States, said the benefit was “not the full paid leave that is needed.”


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