- Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., announced Tuesday plans to introduce a bill to expand leave, scheduling and retirement protections for certain part-time workers.
- A summary of the bill, titled The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act, said the measure would require employers with more than 500 employees to offer available hours to current, available, qualified part-time employees before hiring new workers — and to compensate staff if they fail to do so.
- The bill also would lower the Family and Medical Leave Act's (FMLA) eligibility threshold; workers would be entitled to leave after one year of employment. (Details have not been released but similar legislation Schakowsky introduced in 2013 proposed to remove the 1,250-hours-worked requirement for FMLA eligibility.) Additionally, it would allow employees who have worked at least 500 hours for two consecutive years to have access to retirement plans if their employers offer those plans to full-time staff.
The announcement comes at the height of the 2019 holiday shopping season, a time during which leading retail, food service and other employers hire and onboarded large numbers of part-time and seasonal employees.
The bill would address several issues of particular concern to seasonal and part-time workers, per recent data. A report published in October by on-demand staffing platform Bluecrew and consumer intelligence platform Toluna found seasonal workers prefer flexible work schedules to higher pay. Warren said in a statement that the proposal would help end the practice of unpredictable schedules, "by giving part-time workers the rights, stability, and other protections they deserve to build better financial futures for themselves and for their families."
Paid leave, particularly paid family leave, has become a major talking point among Congressional leaders ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Though both Republicans and Democrats have addressed the need for stronger leave laws at the federal level, the two sides disagree on the structure and funding of a solution. One such effort, from Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., would allow workers to take an advance on their federal Child Tax Credit. Several presidential candidates, including Warren, have either co-sponsored or supported a different proposal, the FAMILY Act, which has yet to pass in either the House or Senate.
Warren and Schakowsky's proposal would expand federal unpaid leave protections, but large employers in the retail and food service sectors have funded paid benefits around leave, childcare and related needs in recent months. In June, for example, Target announced it would expand paid family leave and backup care offerings including for part-time and seasonal employees. Store employees at coffee chain Starbucks likewise have access to both paid parental leave and accrued paid sick leave, the latter being announced in early 2018.