Benefits and Compensation, HR Management & Compliance

Legislative Effort Underway to Provide Paid Leave for Miscarriage

A new bill introduced in Congress that aims to boost research into pregnancy loss also proposes a minimum of three days’ paid leave for workers who experience miscarriage.

If passed, the bill would break new ground on required paid leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which has been law since 1993, provides protected time off to eligible employees of covered employers for certain health-related purposes, but the leave doesn’t have to be paid. Several states, though, have passed laws providing for paid leave for family and/or medical leave.

Lessons From Dealing With FFCRA

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) gave certain employers experience with paid leave because it required them to offer paid time off (PTO) for COVID-19-related reasons. That requirement has now expired.

Marylou V. Fabbo, an attorney with Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. in Springfield, Massachusetts, says the FFCRA provided employers with some benefits. First, it helped ensure employees with COVID-19-related illnesses didn’t go to the workplace by providing them with an alternate source of income.

“Second, it reduced the risk of employees resigning when they had no choice but to care for their children who weren’t able to go to school or camps,” Fabbo says, adding she knows of some employers that are considering providing a similar benefit for other highly transmitted illnesses, such as the flu.

But employers also experienced a downside to providing paid leave, Fabbo says. Because so many people were affected by COVID-19 in one way or another, “some organizations found it difficult to operate their businesses with a substantially reduced workforce.”

What New Bill Would Cover

The paid leave provision in the new bill, which was introduced on July 20, would be limited to leave for pregnancy loss, an unsuccessful assisted reproductive technology procedure, a failed adoption arrangement, a failed surrogacy arrangement, or a medical diagnosis or event that affects pregnancy or fertility, according to an announcement from Representative Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., one of the measure’s sponsors.

Although the FMLA doesn’t require paid leave for pregnancy-related or other medical reasons, some state laws do, meaning many employers offer such leave.

“Many companies are already accustomed to providing leave for a variety of health-related reasons, so we do not anticipate that [the proposed bill] would present unworkable challenges for employers,” Fabbo says.

Tammy Binford writes and edits news alerts and newsletter articles on labor and employment law topics for BLR web and print publications.