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Published on Friday, January 13, 2017

Implementing the family and medical leave insurance program

This week the House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards will hear HB 1116, implementing family and medical leave insurance. The bill modifies and funds the family leave insurance program adopted in 2007 but never implemented.

The original program would have provided paid family leave only for the birth or placement of a child. HB 1116 expands the program to cover leave for an employee or an employee’s family member with a serious health condition or leave for military service.

Employees would be eligible for up to 38 weeks of benefits in a year: 26 weeks for a family member's serious health condition, the birth or placement of a child, or military exigency leave, plus twelve weeks for an individual's serious health condition.

Employees earning 50percent or less of the state average weekly wage would be eligible for 90percent of the employee’s average weekly wage. Employees earning more than 50percent of the state average weekly wage would be eligible for 90percent of the employee’s average weekly wage up to 50percent of the state average weekly wage plus 50percent of their weekly wage that is over 50percent of the state average weekly wage.

During the first year of the program, the maximum weekly benefit amount would be $1,000. Beginning with the second year of the program, the maximum weekly benefit would be 90percent of the state average weekly wage, adjusted annually.

The program would be funded through an assessment on employee wages, and up to half of the premium could be deducted from employee pay. The initial premium would be 0.225percent of an employee’s wages (approximately $112 per year for an employee earning $50,000) and could increase as high as 0.6percent ($300 per year for an employee earning $50,000) depending on the balance of the family leave insurance account. If the account falls below a certain funding level, employers could be assessed a solvency surcharge.

Employers would be required to maintain health plan coverage while the employee is on paid family leave. Employers with eight or more employees must restore an employee’s position if the employee has been employed at least six months.

The bill would take effect on October 1, 2019.

An identical bill, SB 5032, has been introduced in the Senate, but no hearing is scheduled.

Another proposal to implement paid family leave, SB 5149, also has been introduced in the Senate. This bill provides different benefit levels and requires employee contributions to cover the full cost of the program. This bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing either.

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