- Senator Jodi Ernst (R-IA) has introduced a new bill, the Fair Access for Individuals to Receive Leave Act (FAIR Leave Act), that would allow married couples who work for the same employer to each take the full allotment of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
- FMLA currently limits spouses working for the same employer to a combined 12 weeks of leave per year following the birth or adoption of a new baby or to care for an ill parent. It also limits leave to care for a family servicemember to a combined 26 weeks. The FAIR Leave Act would repeal these restrictions so that each spouse would be entitled to the full individual allotment.
- Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Tina Smith (D-MN) joined Ernst in introducing the bipartisan legislation, according to a press release.
This law would remove existing restrictions on the amount of leave that must be provided, in certain circumstances, to spouses who work for the same employer. If passed, the law could create coverage challenges for some smaller employers that have two employees out for a lengthy period of time. On the flip side, the law would enable both new parents to enjoy full FMLA protections even if they work for the same employer, which could be a welcome benefit.
This may provide a boon to business and workers. When fathers have access to flexible work options, mothers have fewer postpartum health issues and enjoy improved mental health, according to research from Stanford's Institute for Economic Policy Research. While employers cannot single handedly remedy longstanding gender stereotypes about parenting and caregiving, equal workplace benefits tend to help both working moms and working dads.
When Ernst & Young (EY) decided to provide a generous 16-week paid parental leave to new dads, it found that its turnover rate for women dropped. Fifteen years ago, it was 15% higher than men's, but is now at a rate of just 0% to 2% higher. EY additionally found that offering men more weeks of leave led to more men taking leave.