A state task force is due to present a report to the legislature’s Labor Committee this fall on the feasibility of a program to compensate employees who are out of work because of an illness or injury, pregnancy or the birth of a child, or to care for an ill family member.
Created by the legislature in 2013, the Task Force on Family Medical Leave Insurance will give the committee its report in October, with legislation expected to be prepared for the 2015 General Assembly.
Details of the task force’s eventual proposal are still being hammered out, but the business community continues to oppose the idea.
Most employers work hard to accommodate their employees in times of medical or family crisis, many allowing the use of accumulated paid time off, or offering short-term disability leave.
Connecticut is already considered one of the nation’s highest business cost states and one of the least friendly to businesses. Adding more burdens and costs on employers would further weaken our economy and competitiveness.
A Connecticut representative from the AFL-CIO recently noted, however, that “paid family leave will be one of our biggest issues next year.”
FMLA helps employees by allowing them to step away from work for extended leaves (up to 16 weeks over a two-year period) to tend to illnesses or injuries in the family, including their own medical issues.
Employers have to protect the jobs of those on leave, and because the benefit is unpaid, it helps to encourage employees to return to work as soon as possible, which is a plus for businesses.
While unpaid, FMLA is not “free” for employers. Businesses must continue paying their share of an employee’s non-wage benefits (such as health care premiums) on top of the costs for hiring and training replacement workers during an employee’s leave.
And requiring businesses to pay employees who are out on FMLA could encourage the workers to stay out longer, regardless of the situation.
The task force also hasn’t decided who will pay for this new form of leave–whether it will be funded through employee payroll deduction, or, perhaps more likely, employer contributions.
The group has also considered extending this paid form of leave to employees who do not currently qualify for FMLA–including those in businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
Advocates for such a program have been providing what they believe to be the “business perspective” on paid FMLA. In a recent meeting, a group called the Small Business Majority discussed the results of a survey it conducted that purportedly shows businesses favor a paid family medical leave program.
However, the Small Business Majority has no affiliation with any businesses and is financed by groups that support increases to the minimum wage and universal healthcare – policies opposed by the vast majority of businesses.
Many Connecticut businesses, business organizations, and chambers of commerce are working together on the CT20x17 campaign to address the state’s competitiveness issues. More workplace mandates, such as the potential for paid FMLA, are the types of actions policymakers should avoid.