A bill introduced this week by Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) and co-sponsored by three others would provide employees with 12 weeks of paid benefits to take time off due to their own illness, or to care for a sick family member or new child. The Family Leave Insurance Act of 2009 (H.R. 1723) would create an employee- and employer-financed insurance fund to provide for the paid leave.
According to a summary of the bill provided by Rep. Stark, this bill would do the following:
- Provide all workers with 12 weeks of paid leave over a 12-month period to care for a new child, provide for an ill family member, treat their own illness, care for a wounded veteran, or deal with the deployment of a family member;
- Provide these benefits through a new trust fund that is financed equally by employers and employees, who will each contribute 0.2% of the employee’s pay;
- Progressively tier the benefits so that a low wage worker (earning less than $30,000) will receive full or near full salary replacement, middle income workers ($30,000- $60,000) receive 55% wage replacement, and higher earners (over $60,000) receive 40-45%, with the benefit capped at approximately $800 per week;
- Administer the program through the Department of Labor which will contract with states to administer the program (similar to how the Unemployment Insurance program is run);
- Allow states and businesses with materially equivalent or better benefits to opt out of the program.
This bill would not replace the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides unpaid leave to employees who work for businesses with 50 or more employees. Under the new bill, all employees who have contributed to the fund for at least six months and have worked at least part-time for their current employer during that time would be eligible to take paid leave under the new program.
If enacted, the provisions of this bill would take effect on January 1, 2011, and apply to periods of leave that commence on or after January 1, 2012.
This bill has been referred to the House Committees on Education and Labor, Oversight and Government Reform, and Ways and Means.