On Tuesday, State Senate President Robert Travaglini addressed the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and described a proposal for paid family leave that we’ve been discussing here on Blue Mass Group ever since. I just listened to a broadcast of Travaglini’s speech, and want to report his take on the proposal.
Travaglini stressed that this is still a proposal, not a bill about to be voted on. He expects that it will go through some changes during the drafting and committee process. He also stressed that it is not an impulse announcement, but rather the result of years of study and work by previous legislative and executive elected officials, and consultation with the MIT Workplace Center. It’s modeled on a successful family leave law in California, but goes further.
- Paid leave would be available for up to 12 weeks a year, for parents of newborn children, people with medical emergencies, and families of people with medical emergencies.
- The program would be funded by a contribution from employees, not employers.
- Paid leave would only be available to employees who had been with their employer for at least 9 months or put in at least 900 hours (equivalent to about 5-6 months of full time work)
- People seeking paid leave for medical reasons would need a letter from a doctor.
- There would be penalties for fraudulent claims for paid leave.
- Paid leave would begin after five days during which the employee uses either vacation time or sick time.
Travaglini talked about California’s law, which has similar benefits but only covers 6 weeks and 55% of salary. He said it has been so successful and popular that Governor Schwartzenegger, who initially said he would try to repeal it, dropped his opposition. So far, according to Travaglini, only 1%-2% of California workers have taken advantage of paid leave, which indicates that the expense will be relatively small and fraud not a major problem. According to estimates by the group who worked on this proposal, the actual cost would average $1.50-$2.00/week per worker.
Travaglini referred to research that shows that having paid family leave reduces employee turnover, and increases productivity. He presented it as “trading risk” in exchange for the weekly, positioning this as an insurance program, similar in concept to Social Security in my opinion. It fills in the smaller spaces that Social Security left uncared for.