Public Assets Institute > Policy Areas > Family Economic Security > Paid family and medical leave is a good deal for Vermonters

Paid family and medical leave is a good deal for Vermonters

The basic idea is simple: A statewide insurance plan that provides paid family and medical leave to Vermont workers most of whom could not otherwise afford to take time from work to care for a new child, a sick family member, or the worker’s own health problem.

The six other states (and the District of Columbia) that currently offer paid leave plans provide a range of benefits. They all include protection for the employee’s own health condition. Most offer longer leave periods for medical conditions than for the birth of a child. They are funded through a mix of employer and employee contributions. Wage replacement ranges from 50 to 90 percent of the worker’s average weekly wage, depending on where they fall on the wage scale. Every state also caps the maximum benefit.

There’s a paid family and medical leave bill (H. 107) working its way through the Vermont House now and it’s likely to get to the governor’s desk. The governor vetoed the plan passed by the Legislature last year.

Since the proposal is an insurance plan, everyone pays into a fund that supports leave for those who need it. That means all Vermonters would have the choice to be home with a sick or dying loved one or a new child. Currently, only a small fraction of Vermont workers, mostly in higher-paying jobs, have access to paid leave.

The proposals floated in the House so far are affordable, funded with an employee payroll tax of less than 1 percent. They range in cost from $9.69 -11.46 a month for a worker making $25,000 a year and offer up to 12 weeks of leave depending on the reason.

This year’s debate, like last year’s, involves efforts to tweak the plan to keep the cost down. Factors being discussed include the maximum length of the leave, whether it applies to an employee’s own temporary disability, whether employers should help pay for it, the amount of the wage replacement, and even the definition of a family member.

But many of these decisions amount to hairsplitting in an effort to drive down an already low cost. We can look to other states for ideas, but we shouldn’t be limited by them. If we’re looking for inspiration, we could take a cue from virtually every other country, many of which offer 52 weeks or more of paid family leave and provide a range of medical leave options.

And we should rely on the body of research showing paid family and medical leave is not just good for individual workers, it’s good for all of us. Research shows paid leave results in better child health outcomes (paid leave policies are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics), improved maternal health outcomes, increases in women’s labor force participation, and no negative effects on businesses in the states that have implemented plans so far. What’s not to like?

Vermonters want the state to have a robust leave plan, and they’re willing to pay for it. All the differences in the proposals add up to just a couple of dollars a month, but the difference for Vermonters of having a paid family and medical leave plan that actually takes care of workers and their families is huge.

Posted by Stephanie Yu on April 4, 2019 at 11:09 am

Comments are closed.