Bay State Lawmakers to Propose State Leave Measure

April 24, 2006 ( - Leaders in the Massachusetts state Senate are expected this week to propose a state level version of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

According to a Boston Globe report, the Bay State’s version will offer all workers in the state up to 12 weeks paid time to care for newborn and adopted children or sick family members. The program is expected to be financed by an employee payroll fee, which aides of Senate President Robert Travaglini said would likely be between $1.50 and $2.50 a week.

”What family hasn’t been touched by some emergency,” said Travaglini, who will formally unveil the proposal Tuesday before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, according to the Globe. ”I’ve been through physical and medical problems. Knowing you’re not going to lose your job and you will continue to be compensated will provide significant comfort.”

Business and labor groups were cautious about the family leave proposal. They may resist the proposed employee premiums, and could face a tough fight in the House. All employees would be required to pay into the fund, regardless of whether they believe they would ever take advantage of the benefits.

The proposal comes only days after Beacon Hill lawmakers enacted a healthcare law that includes a $295 per worker tax on employers that do not provide health insurance coverage (See MA Bill Requires Citizens to Purchase Health Insurance ).

Currently, the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act requires private employers with at least six employees to grant women up to eight weeks of unpaid maternity leave for the birth or the adoption of a child.

”I’m convinced the overwhelming majority of people will view this in a favorable way,” said Travaglini, according to the Globe.  ”Employees are the direct beneficiaries, and the . . . contributions are a very small amount of money that can provide significant comfort and coverage in the event of a medical emergency or the birth of a baby.”

No Firing Clause

The Massachusetts proposal would also attempt to protect employees’ jobs, making it illegal for an employer to fire someone who opts to take a paid leave under the new policy.

The legislation would cover all 3 million employees in the Massachusetts public and private sectors, who would be eligible for a leave after working at least 900 hours in the previous nine months. Workers would first have to burn off their own vacation or sick time for the first week of their leave and then could receive an additional 12 weeks, paid by the new program, according to the Globe report.

Workers could also use the paid leave time to recover from an illness or to care for an ailing relative.

Nationally, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires larger employers with 50 or more employees to offer their workers time off without pay.

The proposed Bay State law is modeled after a similar law in California, the only state that currently mandates paid leave for family emergencies or parents with new children. But the California law pays employees only 55% of their pay for up to six weeks and is capped at $840 a week (See Fewer than Hoped, Feared Take Advantage of Paid Leave Law  ).

According to the report, 25 states introduced paid leave bills in 2005. In addition to Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Washington are considering paid family or medical leave legislation, advocates said.