Lieberman Proposes Paid Time Off Program

December 3, 2003 ( - Presidential contender US Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) is expected to propose a new payroll deduction to finance a new program allowing workers to take paid leave to care for themselves or a loved one.

>Lieberman’s proposal would expand on the time off provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a hallmark of former President Bill Clinton that guarantees employees up to three months of unpaid leave for family medical emergencies, according to a New York Times report. Lieberman aides argue that many eligible employees do not take advantage of existing leave programs because they cannot afford to.

Under the plan for paid leave, employees would have to contribute some part of their income to a fund that to finance leaves at half-salary for up to a month. The payment would be capped at a certain level.   The cost to each employee would be roughly $30 a year, Lieberman’s advisers, told the Times. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees would be exempt because of the potential disruption to small enterprises.

Karen Kornbluh, a former Clinton official who is director of the work and family program at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan advocacy group, told the Times that Lieberman’s proposal recognized that people were feeling economic pressure despite the slow recovery.

“I’ve thought for a while that it’s a politically rich issue that Clinton found a way to speak on,” Kornbluh said, “and since the Family and Medical Leave Act there hasn’t been much progress.”

Business groups and many Republicans have traditionally opposed even unpaid leave – the original bill was vetoed by President Bush’s father – and are unlikely to look favorably on Lieberman’s idea for paid leave, even though the program would rely on employee contributions, not employers’.

Randel Johnson, a vice president at the United States Chamber of Commerce, said companies would have concerns about losing worker productivity.