Why Paid Family and Medical Leave Matters

Emergencies arise for all of us at some point, but 87% of workers in New England lack access to paid leave. In Massachusetts, 1.2 million workers risk losing their jobs if they take time off work to take care of a family medical emergency or to care for a new child. Many workers who are eligible for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act can’t afford to take unpaid time off from work in an emergency. They’re often left to choose between taking care of a child they love or keeping the job that puts food on the table.

Paid family and medical leave would allow these workers to take time to take care of their health or the health of a loved one without fear of losing their job or the risk of financial ruin. And new parents, both mothers and fathers, would be able to take time off to care for a new baby, or a newly adopted or foster child.

How Our Paid Family and Medical Leave Legislation Works

Our two bills, H.2172 (filed by Rep. Ken Gordon) and S.1048 (filed by Sen. Karen Spilka), would make employees eligible for job-protected 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. The bills prohibit employer retaliation against workers who take time off under these conditions.

Employees taking paid leave would receive partial wage replacement equal to a percentage of their average weekly wages, with a maximum weekly benefit of either $650 or $1,000. Paid leave would last up to either 12 or 16 weeks to care for a seriously ill or injured family member or to bond with a new child (family leave), and up to 26 weeks for an employee’s own serious illness or injury (medical leave).

Benefits would be funded through employer premium contributions to the new Family and Employment Security Trust Fund or to private insurance plans. Both bills would allow employers to require employees to contribute up to 50% of the cost of premiums. The bills phase in over a few years, create a one-week waiting period before employees can receive benefits, use existing agencies for administration and enforcement, and allow companies to keep existing plans, all of which reduce costs.

How Our Paid Family and Medical Leave Ballot Question Works

Our ballot question would create a Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program for most Massachusetts workers, providing up to 16 weeks of job-protected paid leave to care for a seriously ill or injured family member, to care for a new child, or to meet family needs arising from a family member’s active duty military service (family leave); and up to 26 weeks of job-protected paid leave to recover from a worker’s own serious illness or injury (medical leave), or to care for a seriously ill or injured service member.

The question prohibits employer retaliation against workers who take time off under these conditions, and workers taking paid leave would receive 90% of their average weekly wages, up to a maximum weekly benefit of $1,000. Benefits would be funded through employer contributions to the new Family and Medical Leave Trust Fund (.0063 of weekly wages), and employers could require employees to contribute up to 50% of the cost.

Why We Need Paid Family and Medical Leave

Paid family and medical leave would help our state’s workers, businesses, and economy. Workers could stay home with a newborn child or a seriously ill or injured parent, or take time to recover from a serious illness or injury. Businesses would benefit from healthier and more productive employees, while the reduction in worker turnover would generate savings for employers. Because employees on leave would receive their benefits from a state trust fund or from private insurance plans, businesses could afford to hire temporary replacement workers with the money they would otherwise use to pay the employee taking leave. Paid family and medical leave also keeps money in the pockets of families who then spend it in the local economy.

California, New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey have paid family and medical leave, and both workers and businesses report positive effects. In a survey 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. Not having paid family and medical leave puts our businesses at a competitive disadvantage compared to businesses in states that do.

We need paid family and medical leave for a simple reason: hardworking people shouldn’t have to choose between working at the job they need to pay the bills and caring for themselves or the family they love in a time of crisis.

Our Plan to Win

In 2016, we passed a paid family and medical leave bill in the state Senate. This fall, we’re collecting signatures to put paid family and medical leave on the ballot, while continuing our campaign in the Legislature. In 2018, we’ll make a final push to pass our legislation by the end of June, and then a ballot campaign would begin next July and end on Election Day, November 6, 2018. Click below to join the fight as a volunteer or share your story to help us persuade legislators to support paid family and medical leave in Massachusetts.

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