For the first time in many years, there seems to be momentum in Washington D.C. for the adoption of a national paid sick leave policy.  Currently, nine states and at least 10 localities have paid sick leave laws.  Paid sick leave is common throughout Europe, in many South American countries, and even in China.  The biggest issue, however, is that while both parties have plans to implement such a law, those plans are very different.

The Democratic plan, embodied in the Healthy Families Act, would allow employees to earn up to one week of paid leave to use for any number of reasons, including recovery from an illness, receiving preventative treatment, caring for a sick family member, attending meetings related to the health of a child, or to seek assistance related to domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault.  The general contours of the Act would allow an employee to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  The law sets the minimum cap for accrual at 56 hours.  In other words, employees would be guaranteed the ability to accrue at least seven days of paid sick leave per year (presuming an employee works an eight-hour day).  The Act would allow smaller employers (fewer than 15 employees) to front load this leave (i.e., give employees access to all 7 days of leave at once, instead of requiring them to earn it by working hours).  Employees would be allowed to carry over any unused paid sick leave from year to year, so long as they did not exceed 56 hours of accrued paid sick leave at any point.  For example, if an employee has 30 hours of paid sick leave accrued as the year turns, the employee would be permitted to carry over all 30 hours, then accrue 26 more to reach 56 accrued for that year.  It’s unclear how this would operate where employers allow employees to accrue more than the 56-hour minimum.  Existing practices at the state level would suggest that employers would only have to roll over up to 56 hours.

Republicans, in contrast, have set down their marker in the debate by introducing the Child Rearing and Developmental Leave Empowerment (“CRADLE”) Act, which would grant three months of paid parental leave to employees who are new parents.  To qualify, employees would need to have worked for either four out of the previous four quarters, five of the previous six, or 20 total quarters.  The level of benefits would be determined by Social Security’s primary insurance amount (so that benefits are more generous to those with lower incomes).  To make this plan “budget neutral,” employees would have to agree to postpone Social Security benefits to take the benefits under the CRADLE Act.  An employee would elect anywhere from one to three months of paid parental leave in exchange for delaying Social Security benefits by double the number of months of parental leave taken.  In other words, if an employee took one month of paid parental leave, the employee’s Social Security Benefits would be delayed by two months; if the employee took three months, the delay would be six months.

It is unclear which proposal, if either, will gain traction, or if some other proposal will be introduced or gain momentum.  So, stay tuned for any updates that may come.  In the meantime, if you need assistance creating a paid leave plan that complies with any state or local law, or even implementing a policy that addresses any type of paid time off, we always here help.