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Paid Family and Medical Leave
Nearly everyone who works will eventually need to take time off of work in order to care for themselves if they become seriously ill, care for a seriously ill family member, or care for a new baby. While many workers have access to unpaid leave either through the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or Wisconsin's state FMLA, only 12% of workers nationally have paid family leave through their employers and fewer than 40% have personal medical leave through an employer-provided, short-term disability program. As a result, many Wisconsin workers who take time off to take care for themselves or their families often face a significant loss of income. To put the status of the United States' paid leave policies in context, the U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not provide workers with any form of guaranteed paid leave from work.
What States Can Do?
With the ongoing inaction on the federal level regarding paid family and medical leave, several states have enacted or are considering whether to enact state insurance programs that provide workers with access to paid family and medical leave. California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have all state family paid leave insurance laws in effect. New York also recently passed a paid family leave insurance law that will go into effect in 2018.
How Does Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Work?
One cost-effective way to ensure that more workers have access to paid family and medical leave is to create state-operated paid leave insurance funds that are funded by payroll contributions from employees, employers, or joint employee-employer contributions. Paid leave insurance funds are accessed by eligible employees as a form of wage replacement if they have a new baby, become seriously ill, or have to care for a seriously ill family member. The benefit amount is usually a percentage of the employee's wage and is capped at a maximum weekly amount. Under these proposals, eligible employees are guaranteed a maximum amount of paid time off, which varies between 4 to 12 weeks in the states that have passed paid leave laws.
How Does Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Affect Businesses?
Surveys of employers in states that have enacted paid family and medical leave insurance programs have indicated that for the vast majority of businesses, paid leave insurance programs have either had a positive or neutral effect on their business operations. State family leave insurance programs can also lead to cost savings for businesses that coordinate their own benefits with the state paid family leave program, which allows employees to use paid family leave insurance instead of, or in combination with, employer-provided paid sick leave, vacation, or disability benefits. In addition, paid family leave insurance programs can also help businesses better retain workers and save money on turnover costs.
Wisconsin Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Legislation
During the 2015-2016 legislative session, Wisconsin state lawmakers introduced the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (WIfi). Under this proposal:
- All Wisconsin workers would be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for personal or family illness, or to care for a new child
- Income replacement would range from 66% of wages for most workers and up to 95% of wages for those with lower incomes
- 2.6 million workers would receive insurance coverage through an employee contribution of between $2 - $3.50/week
- The definition of eligible family members for whom an employee could take paid leave in order to provide care would be expanded to include siblings, grandchildren, and grandparents.
How Can I Help Make Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance a Reality in Wisconsin?
There are lots of ways you can help make paid family and medical leave a reality in Wisconsin.
CONNECT WITH ORGANIZATIONS ALREADY WORKING ON THE ISSUE:
LEARN MORE ABOUT PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE WITH THE FOLLOWING RESOURCES:
SIGN A PETITION TO YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS URGING THEM TO SUPPORT WISCONSIN'S PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE INSURANCE BILL