Children’s Caucus Hears Calls For Paid Leave Program

(Source:  Gongwer News Service, Inc.) Advocates asked lawmakers Monday to urge Congress to keep paid family leave in a broad spending package but also to support the creation of a state-level program. The Ohio Legislative Children’s Caucus heard from panelists how the creation of a program providing workers with parental, medical and caregiving leave could help both families and employers. “This is a key time for Ohio lawmakers to consider how paid family medical leave in our own state could help meet the needs of families and caregivers when they need it most,” said Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington), co-chair of the caucus.


Kate McCleese, senior campaign manager at PL+US: Paid Leave for the United States, said the federal Build Back Better spending bill currently before Congress began with 12 weeks of paid leave but subsequent negotiations had it dropping to four weeks and then falling out of the package completely. The version currently in the U.S. House includes four weeks, added back after a public outcry, she said. While four weeks “may feel disappointing,” she said the creation of any paid leave guarantee nationwide would be “a huge win for working families.”


For state lawmakers, it would also create a framework on which states could build their own policies, she said. Those policies should include parental leave, medical leave and caregiving leave.


Elizabeth Brown, executive director of the Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network, said such a program, which already exists in several states, is important for families for reasons far beyond when someone has a baby. “A strong state-based system promotes that economic stability and workforce participation and improves retention and reduces turnover for employers,” she said. Even unpaid leave is unavailable for about 61% of working Ohioans, she said.


Other states have created legislation modeled as social insurance, with employees contributing premiums deducted from wages, Ms. Brown said. In Colorado, the cost was estimated at about $25 to $30 per year per employee.


She said Ohio, because of its demographics, should pay particular attention to caregiving needs of older workers, who are more likely to need medical leave or have family members who need time off to care for them.


For businesses, a state paid leave program can save them the hassle of having to offer their own program while offering employees a needed support, said Heather Whaling, founder and president of Geben Communication. Her business offers a comprehensive leave benefit despite being a small company. “Paid leave is too important to just be a fancy perk in talent wars, and the drawback from a business standpoint is multiple,” she said. “It improves worker retention, which is saving businesses like mine money through reduced turnover costs.”