Will family leave repeal get crammed into budget deal?

marilyn watkins

Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director at the Economic Opportunity Institute

Washington’s legislature is moving into its final phase focused on reconciling 3 different versions of the 2013-2015 budget before the April 28 adjournment date. And there’s still a threat that the Senate majority will try to cram repeal of family and medical leave insurance into the take home deal.

The House and Governor should stand firm in rejecting repeal or any other action rolling back our family leave insurance law.

Earlier in the session, the Senate majority tried to pass three bills that would have rolled back protections for Washington’s working families – repealing family and medical leave insurance, prohibiting local paid sick leave laws, and limiting the scope of local sick leave laws. Thanks to a strong showing of public support for expanding access to paid leave, rather than restricting it, all three anti-family bills died.

Then last week, Senators Braun and Holmquist-Newbry reintroduced the family leave repeal bill with a new number, Senate Bill 5903. That bill quickly passed through the Ways and Means Committee, and on April 16 was passed by the Rules Committee. The fiscal note for SB 5903 claims savings in the 2013-2015 biennium of $13.6 million. That’s the amount the Employment Security Department has projected it would need to prepare for paying family leave benefits now slated to begin during the 2015-2017 biennium.

But no legislation is necessary this year in order to “save” that money. The legislature can simply not make the appropriation.

Back in 2007, the legislature passed family and medical leave insurance policy, but because of the recession and budget crisis, postponed implementation until 2015. Next year, the legislature should adopt the improved policy and funding plan put forward by Senator Keiser and Representative Green (and 22 of their colleagues) and supported by a broad coalition of community members, workers, health professionals, and business owners.

Meanwhile, the Senate majority should keep its hands off family leave.

New evidence shows CA paid family leave is good for workers and employers alike

Via Washington Policy Watch:

New research shows workers and families are benefiting from California’s paid family leave law – and most employers say it’s had either positive effects or no impact on their business.

Under California’s first-in-the-nation paid family leave (PFL) program, enacted in 2004, workers who become new parents or care for an ill family member can take up to 6 weeks of partially paid leave (55% of a worker’s weekly pay).

Researchers at Columbia University who analyzed the effects of the PFL program on the labor market and new mothers’ use of leave found PFL doubles the average length of leave for new mothers – from 3 weeks to at least 6 weeks.

These effects were most evident among mothers from economically disadvantaged groups – including non-college educated, unmarried, Hispanic, and Black moms – whose average length of leave increased from 1-2 weeks to 4-7 weeks. The research also suggests that PFL increases work hours and wage income for those mothers who returned to work.

On the employer’s end of the experience, another study found business owners’ fears of increased costs and abuse of the policy were unfounded. Six years after California implemented PFL, more than nine in ten employers reported they were not aware of any instances of abuse of the program. Small businesses were less likely than larger companies to report negative effects. Other findings from employers include:

  • 89% reported “positive” or “no noticeable” effects on productivity.
  • 91% reported “positive” or “no noticeable” effects on profitability or performance.
  • 96% reported “positive” or “no noticeable” effects on turnover.

Researchers also found that PFL increased retention among workers in low-quality jobs (paying less than $20 per hour and providing employer-paid health insurance): 83% who used PFL returned to the same employer, compared with 74% of those who did not use PFL. There are also positive effects on workers’ ability to care for a new child and arrange child care, and increased duration of breastfeeding for all new mothers who used PFL.

Locally, the Washington Family Leave Coalition is working to ensure people in our state also have access to paid leave. The state’s Family Medical and Leave Insurance program was established in 2007, and is currently scheduled for implementation in 2015.

Success of California paid family leave is a model for Washington state

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California’s Paid Family Leave program – the first of only two state programs in the country that offer paid leave to workers when they take time off to care for a new child or sick family member – has received high marks from employers and employees alike.

In a first-of-its kind study released this week, researchers examined California’s paid family leave program six years after implementation. They determined that early business concerns over costs and potential abuse of the program were unfounded, and confirmed that paid family leave has widespread economic, social and health benefits for the state.

The results of the study should boost efforts by state policymakers who are looking for ways to fund Washington state’s own Family Leave Insurance program.

“Paid family leave has been remarkably successful in California since the state first created it six years ago,” said study co-author Ruth Milkman, professor of Sociology at UCLA and the City University of New York. “It has helped hundreds of thousands of workers – especially in low-wage jobs – balance the costs and challenges of tending to family and work. Despite the fears of critics when it was first enacted, the paid family leave program has been well received: the employers and employees we surveyed overwhelmingly give the program high marks, and for those who use it, the result has been better economic, social, and health outcomes.”

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