Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced legislation May 18 to expand the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to require that employers with 15 or more employees provide paid sick leave to their employees. Sen. Kennedy (D-Mass.) is expected to introduce the Senate companion bill later this week.
Under the legislation, known as the Healthy Families Act (bill number not yet available), employers would be required to provide up to seven paid sick days to all employees working 20 hours or more per week. An employee’s sick time would be accrued as of the date of hire using an accrual system where workers earn one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours (seven days). Employers with as few as 15 workers would be required to pay sick leave.
Currently, FMLA requires employers to provide employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. FMLA leave provides employees extended time off for the birth of adoption of a child; care for spouse, parent or child with a serious health condition; or when the employee is unable to work due to a serious health condition. Only employers with 50 or more employees are covered by FMLA rules.
Efforts to the pass similar legislation in the 110th Congress failed. However, the 111th Congress version differs from previous bills based on the following changes:
• Provisions allowing victims of domestic violence to use leave provided under the Act for needs related to domestic violence (such as court appearances, counseling, etc.);
• Changed the way that workers accrue leave under the Act;
• The new version does not appear to contain the “lock in” provisions that would prohibit employers from making modifications to their benefits upon enactment;
• Effective date is 6 months after regulations are issued;
• The bill specifically states that employees are not entitled to “reimbursement” for unused paid sick leave upon separation from the employer.
NSBA is opposed to legislation that would hinder an entrepreneur’s ability to create jobs—something the Healthy Families Act would surely do. Expanding FMLA to small businesses during the worst recession since the Great Depression is the wrong policy at the wrong time. Small businesses are in need of a helping hand in creating jobs and increasing productivity—not burdensome government mandates that impose additional costs, stifle job growth and harm employees.
Click here to read NSBA’s issue brief on mandatory leave policy. In addition, click here to contact your members of Congress to urge their opposition to the Healthy Families Act.