Trump renews call for federal paid family leave in State of the Union

Register now

President Trump called for federal paid family leave during his State of the Union address, saying his plan would allow every new parent a "chance to bond with their newborn child.”

American parents are guaranteed time off from work to spend with a newborn child under the Family and Medical Leave Act — but they often have to make it work without a paycheck. The United States is the only developed country in the world with no federally mandated paid family leave. That will change if Trump’s proposal comes to fruition.

"I am also proud to be the first president to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave — so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child,” Trump said.

Trump has called for six weeks of paid family leave before, including during his presidential campaign and during his State of the Union address last year, but it has yet to materialize.

While some states, including Washington and California, have laws requiring family leave, more employers across the country are making moves to update and expand their policies.

Companies have been beefing up paid parental leave policies in the last two years as a way to attract and retain workers, but the percentage of companies offering paid leave is still small. Only 35% of employers offer paid maternity leave and 29% offer paid paternal leave, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Last year, major employers like Dollar General, TD Bank and Unum added parental leave to their benefit packages, while Walmart, IBM and TIAA expanded their existing programs.

See also: Employers zero in on paid parental leave

“FMLA was signed into law 26 years ago today, and still paid leave remains one of the top issues in the workplace,” said SHRM President Johnny C. Taylor in a tweet after Trump’s address. “We need to modernize paid leave to meet the needs of the 21st-century workforce.”

It’s unclear how Trump plans to fund federal parental leave — or how much time will be included — but some lawmakers say a plan is already being drafted.

“I am working with the White House to develop a sustainable paid family leave plan that will give parents the flexibility they need to raise a family,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) in a tweet after Trump’s announcement.

Only 15% of employees have access to a defined paid family leave benefit, according to the Bipartisan Policy Institute.

“To make a federal paid family leave policy reality, we need a pragmatic and bipartisan framework that takes into account Americans from all walks of life,” the institute tweeted following Trump’s remarks.

In response to Trump’s address, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said he hasn’t seen any “meaningful action” from the president on enacting the paid leave policy.

“Unfortunately the question of paid family leave has been all talk for this president. He talked about it during the campaign and in previous #SOTU addresses, but we haven’t seen any meaningful action from him,” Beyer said in a tweet. “This House would make it a priority ... if he was serious.”

Kathryn Mayer and Nick Otto contributed to this report.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.