Massachusetts Considers Paid Family and Medical Leave

State houseThis week, the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development is conducting hearings on Paid Family and Medical Leave legislation (HB 2172 and SB 1048).

The goal of the legislation is to protect workers from losing their jobs if they take time off because of their own serious illness or injury, to care for a family member who is seriously ill or injured, or to care for a baby. According to a version of the legislation pending in the Massachusetts House, the maximum weekly benefit would be set at $650, and the Senate version would set a $1,000 weekly cap. Both versions of the bill require the payments to be financed at least in part by employer contributions. The legislation would require employers to offer employees up to 26 weeks for temporary disability leave and 16 weeks for family care.

Opponents of the legislation argue that it would be too expensive, overly bureaucratic, and that a funding mechanism may be unconstitutional.

In an Op-Ed appearing in the Fall River Herald News, the Bristol County Chamber of Commerce expresses concern that the Massachusetts legislation would rely on an untested, employer-funded model for this employee benefit:

While four other states, which include Rhode Island and New Jersey, have enacted medical and family leave provisions, their programs are strictly funded by employee payroll deductions. No state in the United States mandates that employers must pay for employee medical and family time off. Massachusetts would be the only state to place such an incredible financial burden on its own businesses.

The prospects for this legislation are uncertain. A similar paid family and medical leave bill passed the Massachusetts Senate last year, however, the bill failed to advance to the Governor’s desk. Senate President Stan Rosenberg has reportedly made passage of the legislation by both sides of the legislature a priority for the current legislative session.

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