Many states and municipalities’ efforts to update workplace regulations governing paid leave beyond the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are presenting difficulties for employers, particularly large ones that operate in numerous states, labor and employment experts said.
At least seven states and the District of Columbia have introduced legislation recently that offers or expands paid family or medical leave: California, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island currently require paid family leave, which is funded through employee payroll deductions, existing temporary disability insurance programs, and, in some cases, commercial insurance arrangements.
New York’s Paid Family Leave Act went into effect in January and guarantees eight weeks of paid leave in 2018, increasing to 12 weeks by 2021, when caring for an infant or a family member.
The District of Columbia enacted a paid family leave law in February 2017 that takes effect in July 2020.
Washington state passed a measure to create a paid family leave program in July 2017, with benefits starting in 2020, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Last month, the New Hampshire House approved a state-run program that would offer six weeks of paid family and medical leave insurance and 60-percent wage replacement. The state Senate Finance Committee has a scheduled hearing on the measure later this month. In Maryland, the Senate passed a bill that would give tax credits to businesses that offer employees paid sick leave. The bill needs the House of Delegates’ approval before moving to the governor’s desk.
These measures are in addition to those that are already in place or scheduled to go into effect in several other states and municipalities, said Sherry Leiwant, co-founder and co-president of A Better Balance, a New York City-based nonprofit legal organization that works to advance working families’ rights, and drafted the language in many of these bills. Austin, Texas, for example, became the first city in that state to pass a paid sick leave policy in February, when the city council approved a bill that will, beginning in October, allow workers to accrue one paid hour off for every 30 hours worked.
“With these issues, it’s an intersection between labor rights and women’s rights and a recognition that there should be minimum standards on these issues, as well as how much money you get in your paycheck,” Leiwant says of the current trend.
There is no federal law governing paid sick leave in the United States, although the overwhelming majority of states have enacted some sort of policy, Leiwant said.