Competing Family Leave Plans Emerge in Washington, D.C.

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Competing Family Leave Plans Emerge in Washington, D.C.

Michelle D. Anderson

The D.C. Chamber of Commerce and the Consortium of Universities have pitched an eight-week paid family leave policy for the District. The groups' proposal comes as the 13-member D.C. council considers the Universal Paid Family Leave Act of 2015.

Business owners and college officials in the District of Columbia have pitched a new paid family leave plan for the region, giving the D.C. Council another policy to consider in the coming months.

The D.C. Chamber of Commerce and the Consortium of Universities have pitched an eight-week paid family leave policy for the District, according to WAMU, the NPR affiliate at American University.

The groups’ proposal comes as the 13-member D.C. council considers the Universal Paid Family Leave Act of 2015.

The law, introduced nearly a year ago, initially proposed a policy offering up to 16 weeks of paid leave. However, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has since recommended scaling back and instead offering 12 weeks, along with changing how much certain workers would get paid, WAMU reported.

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The measure, which has been amended since its introduction, would impose a 1 percent payroll tax on employers to fund the benefit.

The chamber and the consortium, which represents institutions such as Howard and Georgetown universities, said employers would pay for the leave as they please under their proposal, called the “employer mandate” model, according to WAMU.

The model would require businesses that employ more than 50 people to offer eight weeks of paid leave at 100 percent of an employee’s pay within a year of the measure becoming law. The benefit offers the same amount of paid leave D.C. government employees receive.

University officials have said that they would rather use policies under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act to offer paid leave, according to WAMU, which noted that local universities are among the region’s biggest employers.

Mendelson told WAMU he was skeptical about the chamber and consortium proposal because it exploits the reality that large companies offer disability insurance. “They can afford the insurance, and therefore they provide it. It would be no cost to them, that’s why they’re pushing it. But it leaves out the small businesses, and that’s a problem,” Mendelson said.

He added that he aims to have the final version of the universal paid leave measure before the D.C. Council before the end of 2016.

Margaret Singleton, interim president and CEO of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, in February criticized a version of the proposed law in remarks before the D.C. Council. Singleton said the law creates “a new paid time off entitlement program administered by the government … makes the District of Columbia less competitive and attractive for businesses.”

Singleton said the proposal did not credit the businesses “who already offer paid leave and benefit programs equal to or greater than what the program mandates.”