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My Turn: With paid family leave, everybody wins



For the Monitor
Thursday, October 26, 2017

On Oct. 31, House Bill 628, a bill to create a New Hampshire paid family leave program, will be debated in the N.H. House Labor and Rehabilitation Committee.

HB 628 was heard in the spring, retained over the summer and assigned to a study committee that met three times and voted unanimously to recommend the bill be voted “ought to pass” to the full committee.

HB 628 is the result of multiple bills, studies, forums, meetings, research and surveys conducted in the state since 2000. The bill itself is aligned with N.H. Department of Employment Security existing systems and requirements to make it employer friendly. Further, definitions, criteria for participation and period of leave (12 weeks) are consistent with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Three states, Canada, most of Europe, Asia and South America have varying systems of paid family leave programs. California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have already implemented programs. Washington State, New York and Washington, D.C., will join them in January.

California’s program benefit has been available for almost 10 years, and has been studied and evaluated extensively. The state has seen a 14 percent increase in labor force participation since the legislation was enacted. Results from businesses found that nine out of 10 employers reported that paid family leave had “a positive effect” or “no noticeable effect” on productivity, performance and profitability. Further, on employee retention and morale, 96 percent and 99 percent of employers, respectively, reported either a “positive effect” or “no noticeable effect.” Eighty-seven percent of employers reported no added costs due to the program and 9 percent reported cost savings.

In 2013, results of a national poll found that 45 percent of small-business owners supported proposals to create a publicly administered paid family leave program. In just four years, that number has grown to 70 percent.

Sixty-one percent of small-business owners support a combination of employer and employee contributions to administer a paid family leave program.

In New Hampshire, 82 percent support implementing a paid family leave program and are willing to pay costs prorated on individual weekly wages.

Although initially considered a women’s issue, research confirms that both men and women have care-giving responsibilities. No employee should have to lose pay or their job to care for a sick child, or to help an aging parent transition from home to assisted living. Further, three months to bond with a new infant or adopted or foster child is critical in the development of a healthy attachment, a foundation for future educational success.

HB 628 as proposed is comprehensive and specific in addressing serious family and medical needs, available to all employees, affordable and cost-effective, inclusive and available without adverse employment consequences.

New Hampshire working families have a clear, demonstrated need for and deserve a comprehensive paid family leave insurance program. HB 628 is designed to promote financial security for working families and attract, support, and retain a talented and skilled workforce. It is essential for a strong and growing New Hampshire economy. Please call your representative to support a paid family leave program for New Hampshire.

(Mary Stuart Gile of Concord represents Merrimack District 27 in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.)