States Consider a Wide Array of Paid Family Leave Legislation

March 21, 2019|11:20 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Paid family leave allows employees to take paid time off during pregnancy, after the birth or adoption of a child, or when a family member needs care. Only an estimated 13-14 percent of workers in the United States have access to employer-based paid family leave. Evidence shows that paid family leave provides health-related benefits for mothers and children including increases in health benefits associated with breastfeeding, better mother-child interactions, and decreased maternal and marital stress.

Currently, six states—California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington state—and Washington, D.C. have enacted paid family leave programs. Although a proposal for paid leave was introduced at the federal level, there is no national level program. Meanwhile, several other states are currently considering legislation to establish paid family leave programs. Below is an overview of recent legislative activity around paid family and medical leave programs and plans.

Four states—Illinois, Indiana, Maine, and Oklahoma (HB2464 and SB478)—introduced legislation providing paid leave for up to six weeks. The Illinois bill applies to private employers with 50 or more employees. In Maine, the legislation would establish an opt-in paid family leave insurance program.

In other states, proposed legislation would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave. New Hampshire’s senate passed a bill providing for 12 weeks of paid leave at up to 60 percent of a worker’s salary. Bills in Tennessee (HB514 and SB647), New Mexico, Vermont (S88 and H107), and Colorado would establish programs allowing employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave.

In Colorado, benefits would also apply if an individual leaves work due the individual’s own serious health condition or because the individual or a family member is the victim of abusive behavior. Connecticut’s legislature introduced multiple bills (SB159, SB509, SB1, SB881, HB6731, HB7041, and HB5003) that would establish a paid family and medical leave program. Two of the bills (SB881 and HB5003) provide up to 12 weeks of paid family leave with an additional two weeks for serious health conditions that occur during a pregnancy. Another bill (SB159) would specifically require businesses with two or more employees to provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave per year.

The Iowa legislature introduced a bill creating the “Iowa Family and Medical Leave Act,” which would provide for a maximum combined total of paid family leave and medical leave of 16 weeks. An Oregon bill would establish a paid family and medical leave plan providing benefits to covered individuals for up to six weeks of medical leave and 12 weeks of family leave. Nebraska proposed similar legislation allowing covered individuals to take paid family and medical leave for a maximum of six or 12 weeks depending on the qualifying reason.

Two states introduced legislation allowing paid leave only for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. In Florida, companion bills (SB692 and HB393) would create the “Florida Family Leave Act” requiring an employer to allow certain employees to take paid family leave to bond with a new child upon the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement. A similar Pennsylvania bill would require that employers provide not less than 12 weeks of paid leave to an eligible employee to care for a child during the period extending from the beginning of a pregnancy to one year after the birth, adoption, or placement of the child.

Some states have proposed legislation allowing for paid family leave for certain public or state employees. For example, the Maine legislature introduced a bill that would provide paid family leave to public school employees. An Arizona bill would provide state employees with six weeks of paid leave for the birth of a child or placement of child in connection with foster care or adoption. In Vermont, the legislature proposed three similar bills (H395, H396, and S151) enabling the governor to enter a contract with a private insurance carrier to provide family and medical leave insurance benefits to state employees. Other workers could sign up for the benefit through their employers if it is offered.

Paid family leave programs are an example of a “health in all policies” approach to state policy. In addition to the beneficial impact on the health of the individual employees and their families, paid family leave has been shown to lessen the strain of caregiving, provide family caregivers with greater financial security, increase employee retention, and help maintain a productive workforce. ASTHO will continue to monitor this important public health issue throughout the year and inform its members of this emerging policy trend.

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