Federal Paid Family and Medical Leave Proposal to Cover Part Time Workers, Independent Contractors

September 10, 2021

Budget reconciliation bill text approved this week by the House Ways and Means Committee features a substantial federal paid family and medical leave program that would give all workers—including part-time and gig workers—up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for their own serious medical condition or that of a family member.

The proposal largely mirrors the Building and Economy for Families Act, proposed earlier this year by Rep. Neal (D-MA), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, with several notable differences. 

For an in-depth summary of the proposal, please refer to our comprehensive breakdown of the bill’s provisions and areas particularly relevant for employers: HR Policy Reconciliation Paid Leave Summary 

Brief highlights of the proposal include:

  • Up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave;

  • Wage replacement determined on a sliding scale based on income level—roughly two-thirds of an individual’s average earnings in most cases;

  • Workers are eligible regardless of tenure, job type, or worker classification—part-time and gig workers included;

  • Expansive qualifying reasons for leave beyond what is included under current unpaid FMLA; and

  • A reimbursement program for equivalent employer benefits programs is available, provided certain thresholds are met and with conditions attached (including job protections).

HR Policy has been significantly engaged on this issue for the last several months.  In July, the Association submitted a letter to Congress highlighting several questions and issues to be addressed in any federal paid leave program.  More recently, the Association sent another letter to Congress specifically addressing pieces of legislation expected to be included in the reconciliation bill, including paid family and medical leave.

Outlook:  It is likely the proposal will be further amended in the coming days and weeks.  Further, moderate Senate Democrats such as Joe Manchin (D-WV) have expressed a desire to reduce the overall reconciliation bill’s hefty price tag, which could result in the paid leave proposal being scaled back significantly.  Finally, it is unclear whether the proposed paid leave program can pass the Senate's Byrd rule, which requires any part of a budget reconciliation bill to be sufficiently related to spending.  The Association will continue to engage with policymakers as the reconciliation process continues.