The potential impact of President Biden’s proposed paid leave program

President Joe Biden’s 2025 budget proposal reveals a plan to establish a national paid family and medical leave program. If passed, this change would expand upon existing requirements under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), offering 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to eligible employees in a program administered by the Social Security Administration.

The proposed changes would cover a range of circumstances, including:

  • Bonding with a new child
  • Caring for a family member with a serious health condition
  • Dealing with a family member’s military deployment
  • Seeking safety from sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence
  • Recovering from a serious health condition
  • Taking time to deal with the loss of a loved one

Why is the Biden administration prioritizing changes to FMLA?

With the U.S. being one of few industrialized countries lacking a national paid leave program, there is a growing recognition of the need for reform. In the absence of coverage at a federal level, more than a dozen states have implemented paid leave programs, adding complexity for employers, particularly those with distributed workforces. While the existing FMLA provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, lawmakers have been working to pass more expansive coverage for over a decade. Similar efforts to make these federal changes have not come to fruition in the past, and many experts believe the latest attempt by the Biden administration will not become law due to a divided Congress. Still, this has the potential to significantly reshape the leave regulation landscape.

How would a national paid leave program affect employers?

This legislation would introduce additional compliance requirements for businesses of all sizes. At this point in time, it’s difficult to determine the full scope of impact on employers and their HR teams administering the leave process. While it has the potential to streamline compliance by providing a uniform standard, it would also expand the number of employers subject to leave regulations. Additionally, the existing state-specific paid leave laws vary in detail for pay, length of leave, and administrative requirements, which could lead to compliance complications if the interaction between federal and state law is unclear.

In conclusion, while the most recent proposal for a national paid leave program must overcome significant hurdles to go into effect, the potential of paid FMLA for all states is higher than it’s ever been. With a continuous push from the Biden administration, trending state regulations, and private industry paid leave policies continuing its upward trajectory, employers must be vigilant and proactive to adapt to evolving compliance requirements.