GOP Senators Float New Paid Parental Leave Plan Based on Social Security Contributions

February 09, 2018

Three GOP Senators are working on a paid parental leave bill that would let employees use some of their Social Security contributions to take paid time off to care for newborn children.  The bill, which is being drafted by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Joni Ernst (R-IA), would allow new parents to take up to 12 weeks of leave at a portion of their prior salary in exchange for having their Social Security payments delayed by about six weeks upon retirement.  Employees would get 90 percent of the first $895 of their average monthly earnings, 32 percent of earnings between $895 and $5,397, and 15 percent of earnings above that level, up to a maximum of $2,788 per month.  To be eligible for benefits, employees would have to have worked at least four quarters in their lifetime, with at least two of these coming in the four quarters before their child’s birth.  The idea immediately drew criticism from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who said: “Congress should be working to strengthen Social Security, not weaken it.”  She further called on Congress to “pass a paid leave program that is comprehensive, affordable, gender-neutral, and covers all of life’s unexpected medical events.” Separately, an OECD report found the U.S. remains the only country in the developed world that does not mandate that employers offer paid leave for new mothers.  However, a series of recent studies shows that while generous parental leave benefits along the lines of those in Europe can increase the labor force participation of women, they may not narrow the pay gap. A recent New York Times article (linked above) focusing on benefits in Sweden noted: “Despite generous social policies, women who work full-time there are still paid 15 percent to 20 percent less than men, new research shows—a gender pay gap similar to that in the United States.”