Healthy Families and People Are Part of Main Street Businesses’ Bottom Line

Principles on Paid Family and Medical Leave

Business owners and employees alike experience the need for time to recover from a serious illness, care for a sick loved one, or welcome a new child. Protecting such time is good for business. It strengthens talent recruitment and retention, boosts employee morale and loyalty, and increases productivity. Small businesses lack the scale and capital to offer and administer and/or afford paid leave. We need a national paid family and medical leave social insurance program.


Ensure maximum benefit of the program to small businesses  

  1. Equal, Universal Access. Paid Family and Medical Leave should be available to all businesses, regardless of size or sector, and to all individuals, whether they are employees that work part-time, full-time, seasonal, individuals who are self-employed, or are independent contractors, or are business owners themselves. To ensure maximum benefit to small business, leave eligibility and benefits should not be determined by gender; everyone should have equal access. The Paid Family and Medical Leave program also should be protected from carve-outs or opt-outs, which would undermine its universality and sustainability.  

  2. Comprehensive. A Paid Family and Medical Leave policy must be comprehensive and broad enough to include the key reasons people need time away from their job. It must include paid parental leave (including bonding time for adoptive and foster children), paid family caregiving, and serious personal medical needs should be covered without gender distinction, and should be inclusive sexual orientation and gender expression/identity. A Paid Family and Medical Leave policy must be sufficient in length to meet people’s medical/caregiving needs (a minimum of 12 weeks).

  3. Inclusive. The family definition should cover the full range of family configurations and care responsibilities that business owners and their employees face. Caregiving responsibilities often extend outside of the nuclear or residential family. A sound Paid Family and Medical Leave program that meets the needs of today’s workforce will reflect this reality. Accordingly, the paid family caregiving should cover every meaningful relationship, including chosen family relationships and other individuals who play a family role in times of need.


Responsibly funded to make leave affordable for businesses of all sizes

  1. Affordable to Fund. A Paid Family and Medical Leave policy should be financed in a way that is affordable and cost-effective for small business owners and employees, with contributions made by both.  This ensures funding that is sustainable over time and adequate to meet program needs. Paid Family and Medical Leave should also provide a financially viable way for even the smallest business owner to offer leave.

  2. Affordable to Use. It must provide adequate, progressive wage replacement to enable all employees to take time off and meet their expenses, with up to full replacement for the take-home pay of lower-wage employees and sufficiently high wage caps to ensure strong participation by middle-income families.  This allows all employees to take the time they need, helps reduce gender bias in leave-taking and keeps money flowing in the local economy.

  3. Public Social Insurance Funding. The program should use a social insurance model, spreading costs across all businesses, business types, and income level of employees  and include a dedicated funding stream (that does not harm other essential programs). This easily allows benefits to be portable across jobs and employment sectors, ensuring everyone that pays in is fully covered by benefits.


Designed to support employers and provide stability to businesses

  1. Efficient, Public Administration. The program should be publicly administered. This approach will ensure administrative simplicity for small business owners, ensure that program funds be used for benefits rather than for third-party profits, and protect sensitive information.

  2. Solution-Oriented Support and Protection. The Paid Family and Medical Leave program should provide stability to small business owners and include a robust outreach program (during implementation and beyond) supported by a dedicated budget. Additionally, to address any concerns about an extended employee absence, at a minimum the program should provide education and technical assistance to help businesses adapt. The program also must offer stability to employees, providing predictability as they return to work.

  3. Streamlined Implementation. Implementation should be simple and minimize small business owners’ administrative responsibilities. Furthermore, the employee, not employer, should be responsible for filing leave claims and verifying materials, and a compliance grace period should be available as small business owners adjust to their new responsibilities and any unexpected complications.

  4. Set a Benefits Floor. The federal program should build off existing programs to maximize efficiency (without preempting more comprehensive state programs). States and businesses can enhance benefits set by federal standards.