Latest attempt to expand FMLA offers incentive for employers

FMLA, medical leave, paid leave

You may have heard: The feds are interested in expanding employee protections, and the availability of sick leave and medical leave — especially paid varieties. But many of their proposals have been met with backlash. But this latest proposal offers more in an attempt to gain employer support. 
The problem with a lot of the feds’ past proposed laws, at least in the eyes of employers: cost.
Employers feel providing employees with more leave, unpaid or not, than current federal laws mandate would create significant cost burdens — whether it’s due to a loss in productivity or having to hire replacement workers.
To help alleviate those burdens, while providing more leave opportunities to workers, U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Angus King (I-ME) introduced “The Strong Families Act.”
It would essentially expand the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by creating a system in which employers, even those too small to be subject to the FMLA as presently constructed, could voluntarily offer paid family leave similar to full- and part-time workers.
In exchange for offering workers paid family leave, employers would be given a 25% non-refundable tax credit for each hour of paid leave provided.

The fine print

To be eligible for the tax credit, employers must offer a minimum of four weeks of paid leave. The more leave employers offer, the more their credit grows.
The paid leave would be tracked on an hourly basis and must be kept separate from other vacation or sick leave.
In addition, the credit would be available to any employer, regardless of size, with qualified employees, and — much like under the FMLA — employers would be prohibited from retaliating against employees who participate in the leave program.
A similar bill was also introduced in the House.

A look into the future

While analysts on Capitol Hill are giving The Strong Families Act little chance of passage, the bill may be precursor to the types of incentives legislators will be looking to build into laws to gain employers’ favor.
With many employers already feeling like they’ve been pushed to the brink as far as how many new requirements Congress and their states can lump on them, legislators may be starting to feel the need to sweeten the pot to generate support for new regulations.