Congressional Proposal Expands Paid Leave Rights

February 5, 2004 ( - A California Democrat in the US House of Representatives has introduced a bill aimed at helping workers balance work/life responsibilities by, among other things, providing paid leave for new parents and for attending school events.

The bill, by US Representative Lynn Woolsey, (D-California) would alsoimprove the quality and availability of child care, school nutrition programs, and after-school care; and funding of voluntary universal preschool, according to CBS The bill would also help employers provide added benefits to all employees, not just those with children.

Woolsey, the bill’s author and sponsor, said the Congressional Budget Office was working on an estimate of the legislation’s cost.   “The Bush domestic policy agenda couldn’t be more hostile to families trying to perform the balancing act — their tax cuts benefit the wealthiest Americans, the people whose lives are already in balance,” Woolsey said, according to the report.

Ellen Bravo, director of a national association of working women called 9 to 5, said the bill takes into account that childless Americans still have parents, in-laws, life partners and other family members who need their support. Woolsey’s measure also provides for time off to deal with non-medical parental responsibilities as well, Bravo pointed out.

“This bill really tries to recognize the large number of interlinking issues that help people to balance their priorities so that they can be both good workers and good family members,” Bravo said.

Still, some Washington scholars are afraid the proposal will cost too much. David Boaz, executive vice-president of the Cato Institute, a Washington think-tank, told CBS Marketwatch that by expanding the reasons for paid leave, more companies would be pushed out of business and companies would be compelled to hire people without children, temps and contract workers.

Twenty co-sponsors have signed on to Woolsey’s House bill.