Benefits Byte

September 22, 2021

Council Releases National Polling Data Showing Strong Support for Uniformity in Paid Leave, Continues Advocacy Effort to Modify BBBA

With congressional Democrats poised to advance an expansive paid family and medical leave proposal through the budget reconciliation process, the American Benefits Council continues to push for modifications that would make the program less complex and costly for large, multistate employers.

The Build Back Better Act (BBBA) — the $3.5 trillion package of sweeping social and economic programs that also includes a number of retirement and health policy provisions (see the September 7 and September 8 Benefits Bytes) – is expected to be considered by the full U.S. House of Representatives as early as next week. If it is approved by the House, it will proceed to the Senate where, as a budget reconciliation measure, it can pass with a simple majority (though its approval in both houses of Congress is far from certain).

As we have previously reported, the BBBA would create a new entitlement program guaranteeing up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers, which would be available through one of three sources: (1) a new public program administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, (2) existing state paid leave programs or (3) employer sponsored paid leave programs. A comprehensive summary of the family and medical leave provisions, provided courtesy of Davis & Harman, LLP, is available for Council members.

A new set of talking points summarizes several of the Council’s concerns with the proposal. As Council president James Klein noted in a news release, “the current proposal introduces a host of complex operational challenges, the most acute of which is a rigid deference to the states.”

To support our advocacy efforts, earlier this year the Council established the Leveraging Employers and Valuing Employees (LEAVE) Coalition to coordinate the Council’s activity. We appreciate the involvement of several Council member companies and invite others to participate in the initiative. The LEAVE Coalition recently commissioned a series of survey questions that were included in a September 16 national online poll by ALG Research, which previously conducted polling for the Biden presidential campaign.

According to the survey of 850 likely voters, working Americans – like their employers – support a more careful approach that emphasizes administrative simplicity and equity in the workplace.

  • Contrary to the often-cited Bureau of Labor Statistics report that just 21% of civilian workers have access to paid family leave, the AGL survey found that fully half (50%) of those surveyed have such access. This statistic underscores both the profound need to enact universal paid leave and should give pause to lawmakers contemplating an extremely disruptive proposal for the half of the workforce that already enjoys this benefit.
  • By a two-to-one margin (59% to 29%), a majority of voters would prefer to have their paid leave benefits administered by their employer alone, rather than a combination of their employer plus their state government or the federal government. Workers should not have to cope with confusing administrative burdens especially during times when personal and family health should be their sole focus.
  • By a similar margin (53% to 23%), a majority of voters believe that “employees working the same job for the same company should receive the same amount of paid leave regardless of the state in which they work,” as opposed to receiving “the amount of leave determined by their state government.” Voters who already have employer-provided paid family and medical leave feel especially strongly about this, by a nearly three-to-one margin (68% to 23%). This speaks to the need for federal uniformity, so multistate employers are allowed to provide fair and equitable benefits across their nationwide workforce.

The Council’s analysis of this data echoes our overall advocacy message to lawmakers. As Klein said in the Council’s news release, “In principle, the Council and its large employer members endorse a national paid family leave policy, just as it appears many American voters would. But if multistate employers are compelled to reduce benefits or drop plans altogether as a result of numerous inconsistent state laws, the results will be unpopular with workers and cost the federal government significantly more money, since these workers would then receive paid leave through the new federal program.”

Please continue to follow the Council’s Benefits Byte for additional updates on the budget reconciliation bill. For more information, or if your organization has empirical or anecdotal data on the potential impact of the legislative proposal on your business and workforce, please contact Ilyse Schuman, senior vice president, health policy, or Diann Howland, vice president, legislative affairs.