The legislation would make employees eligible for paid leave to recover from a serious illness or injury, to care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or to care for a new child. It prohibits employer retaliation against workers who take time off under these conditions.
Under the legislation, employees would be eligible for temporary disability benefits equal to a percentage of their average weekly wages, capped at $650/week. Paid leave would last up to 12 weeks to care for a family member or new child, and up to 26 weeks for an employee’s own serious illness or injury.
Benefits would be funded through employer premium contributions to the new Family and Employment Security Trust Fund or to private insurance plans, and the bill would allow employers to require employees to contribute up to 50% of the cost of premiums. A UMass Boston study of the bill, released last week, estimates that the program would have a weekly perworker cost of just $3.06.
The bill exempts employers who already provide equivalent paid leave benefits, creates a one-week waiting period before employees can receive benefits if they are out of work due to their own illness or injury, and uses existing agencies for administration and enforcement, keeping costs down. The legislation, H1718, is sponsored by Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka and Representative Ken Gordon.
California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have had paid family and medical leave for years, and both workers and businesses report positive effects. Six years after California’s law was implemented, 89 to 99 percent of employers reported that paid family and medical leave had either a “positive effect” or “no noticeable effect” on productivity, profitability/performance, turnover, and employee morale.1 Last month, New York became the fourth
state to pass a paid family and medical leave law.
Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions committed to building an economy that works for all of us, collected over 350,000 signatures in 2013 and 2014 on behalf of two ballot initiatives: raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing earned sick time for all Massachusetts workers. In June 2014, the Legislature passed and the governor signed legislation giving Massachusetts the highest statewide minimum wage in the country. Raise Up Massachusetts then led the campaign to ensure access to earned sick time for all workers in the Commonwealth by passing Question 4 in November 2014.
Now, Raise Up Massachusetts is working to create a paid family and medical leave program, invest in transportation and public education with a tax on annual income above $1 million, and make sure that people who work full-time for large, profitable corporations can earn a living wage of $15 an hour.