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Report: Constructing 21st Century Rights for a Changing Workforce: A Policy Brief Series: Brief 2


Executive Summary

The way we work is changing. Millions of people are working in ways that do not fit neatly within the traditional employer/employee framework. Innovative policies like paid leave laws offer exciting opportunities to develop workplace standards that truly work for a changing workforce. This brief, the second in a series analyzing key issues in covering non-standard and precarious workers under paid leave laws, focuses on employees who are often left out of needed protections and paid family and medical leave laws. The brief looks at four specific categories of workers, collectively referred to as “nonstandard employees”: temporary workers, seasonal workers, part-time workers, and domestic workers.

Six states and the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive paid family and medical leave laws. These laws provide covered workers with the right to partial wage replacement through a social insurance system when they are not working due to their own or a family member’s serious health needs or bonding with a new child. These laws all cover nearly all private sector employees in their respective states automatically.

Yet without conscious attention to their needs, too many nonstandard employees will either be unable to take the leave they need in practice or be left out altogether. The policy brief surveys existing laws to identify and analyze the primary outstanding issues in covering nonstandard employees under paid family and medical leave laws, including:

  • The importance of covering all employees and the common obstacles policymakers face in doing so
  • The impact of workforce attachment requirements, like employment duration requirements, on coverage of nonstandard employees and portability of benefits
  • The mechanisms of effectively covering workers with multiple sources of income
  • How benefit levels affect access, particularly for low-income workers
  • The need for job protection for nonstandard employees—and all employees
  • How to address the problem of misclassification— workers treated as independent contractors who legally ought to be considered employees
  • Special considerations in covering domestic workers
  • How outreach and education are essential to ensuring nonstandard employees know about and can use their rights


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