Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Maternity Leave Plans Get Attention; Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Are Putting Debate Back in the Forefront

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Maternity Leave Plans Get Attention; Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Are Putting Debate Back in the Forefront

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump brought a groundswell of interest from the small-business world this week when he announced a proposed policy that, if he were elected, would provide six weeks of paid maternity leave for women who give birth while employed, a proposal similar to that of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Jacksonville small business leaders say the growing attention to paid maternity leave on the campaign trail is rightly bringing the issue back to the forefront, and the implications for small-business owners and employees could be dramatic.

Janice Donaldson, regional director for the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of North Florida, said it's still unclear how either of the proposals - Trump's or Clinton's -would be paid for.

"The question is, would the paid maternity leave apply to every employer?" Donaldson said Wednesday. "I don't think anyone can argue with paid maternity leave. ...

"I think it is important to have the discussion," Donaldson said. "It's a valid discussion. ... But there are unintended consequences with all of these proposals."

Hank Bonar, owner of Bonar Engineering & Construction Inc. on Edgewood Avenue, which employs about a dozen people, said the uncertainty of the details of any plan for maternity leave makes him unsure whether he would even engage in a government plan that involved reimbursement.

"I'd appreciate it [reimbursement]," Bonar said. "But it really depends on what kind of red tape it would take. Sometimes, I would just as soon do it on my own instead of worrying about it."

But Bonar said if there were government funding for maternity or paternity leave and it was streamlined for employers to easily access, he'd have to support it.

"I'm not sure what the numbers would be yet. But if it's something that everyone is getting, then I would think it would be a fair use of taxpayer money," he said.

The Associated Press reported that Trump's plan unveiled Tuesday would guarantee six weeks of paid maternity leave to new mothers. Currently, federal policy provides only 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The Republican presidential nominee would fund the change by tweaking the unemployment insurance employers must provide under federal law, according to the campaign.

Clinton has long supported paid maternity and paternity leave, dating to the turn of the century when she first proposed what came to be called "baby unemployment insurance" or Baby UI. The Labor Department's resulting Baby UI plan, as released in 2000, allowed states to fund maternity and paternity leave for 12 weeks. By 2003, however, the movement chilled. The Bush administration rescinded the policy, insisting it would burden employers, stifle business and put women at risk of employment discrimination. …

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