Universal Paid Family and Medical Leave

Universal Paid Family and Medical Leave


Numerous studies demonstrate the benefit of parental bonding with children during the first weeks of life. This policy would also make Maine a family-friendly state when we are in urgent need of more Mainers (parents and children) to compensate for our aging population. Employees and employers benefit when skilled employees can afford to take time off and return to work after birth.  Otherwise many parents, particularly women, drop out of the labor force entirely after the birth of their first child, and don't return until a decade or more later. Most never catch up on the lost earnings, and the Maine economy suffers from a lack of workers.


Half a dozen states have paid family and sick leave in place, and a number of cities, from San Francisco to New York, are doing the same. Democrats in Congress are pushing national legislation that is unlikely to pass out of a Republican controlled House. Maine's demographic realities provide an added source of urgency. In 2015, our population declined for the first time in living memory. There's a widespread awareness of the need to be welcoming to, and supportive of, families.


Finally, the US is one of a very small number of countries worldwide without a policy that covers this. We're being outdone by Afghanistan, Congo, and Rwanda.  Our disregard for the economic realities faced by families simply puts us embarrassingly out of step with the rest of the world.


There are many ways to ensure families can take time off work to give and receive the care they need.  Here is one approach consistent with other states and cities.

  1. Employers provide a minimum of 1 hour sick leave for each week worked, full time, to a maximum of 40/year (i.e. 1 full week).  Pro-rate for part-time employees. This is in line with policies in other New England states. It can be used for care of self or family member.

  2. Create a social insurance fund to pay all employees for pregnancy, childbirth, adoption, and long-term family medical leave. 12 weeks' leave at 100% of regular salary, capped at a certain threshold. Medical studies back the importance of a 12-week period. For low-wage workers in particular, anything less than 90-100% of their salary is going to make this impractical. The fund would be created by contributions from the employer, and perhaps some from the employee. The employer would pay the employee during leave, then be reimbursed for costs from the state insurance fund.


These reforms can be seen as part of creating a twenty-first century social insurance system, alongside the creation of a universal care benefit that covers childcare and home care.  For more information on how to fund this overall system by closing massive loopholes in social security payroll taxes, please see the information on the universal care benefit.


For more information, see: http://familyvaluesatwork.org/