Monday, May 16, 2016

By Erin Macey

Recovery from a C-section: six weeks. Stroke rehabilitation: months. The ability to bond with a newborn, care for a recovering spouse, or sit at the bedside of a dying parent without worrying about lost wages: priceless. On June 6th, the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2016 Paid Leave Analysis Grant Program will accept applications from state, county, or local agencies seeking to study how best to implement a statewide system of paid family leave. Indiana should apply. It’s an opportunity too vital to Hoosiers’ well-being to miss.

Paid family leave is, in essence, an insurance plan for an employee’s most valuable asset: his wages. When a qualifying event occurs – a parent enters hospice or a baby is born, for example – the employee can file for wage replacement during his or her leave of absence. Many employees are already entitled to unpaid leave during these events through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but these unpaid absences can take a serious toll on a family’s financial well-being or on the bottom line of a company that continues to pay its employee through a difficult time. 
In the United States, paid family leave programs are as unique as the states implementing them. New York is the most recent to create a program; it will soon offer 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with an infant, care for a seriously ill family member, or cover for a family member called to active military service. Massachusetts has proposed legislation that will require employers to fund family leave and temporary disability insurance, while other states fund their programs entirely through a small employee payroll deduction. States vary on how much of an individual’s wages they will replace as well; for example, California formerly offered only 55% of an individual’s wages up to a ceiling, but recently changed to a progressive scale topping out at 70% for low-income families, who couldn’t afford to take the leave at lower wage replacement levels.

If Indiana is serious about supporting all Hoosiers and attracting and retaining talent, paid leave is a no-brainer. Many of Indiana’s larger employers already offer it and could see cost reductions from participating in a state-administered plan, while small businesses that currently cannot afford to offer paid leave on their own could benefit from buying in to a larger pool.  In fact, under a paid family leave program, businesses won’t be required to fund an employee’s wages while the employee is on leave; instead, the business can use the freed-up funds to hire a temporary replacement. This doesn’t even factor in the many benefits to families and the state, including increased breastfeeding rates, decreased need for public assistance, and the priceless gift of the ability to be present during life’s most important moments.
Please join the Indiana Institute for Working Families in calling on Indiana to capitalize on this grant opportunity. Engaging in a careful study of other paid leave programs and Indiana’s distinct needs will enable us to craft smart legislation that will successfully cover all families and businesses during the inevitable times when we must place our work lives on hold to live out our Hoosier family values. Encourage Indiana and your city and county to apply at:


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