Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Paid family leave. Massachusetts legislators, fresh from passing a landmark health care reform bill, are now considering a bill that would establish the most generous paid family and medical leave program in the country. A recent story in the Boston Globe discussed the details. The bill would guarantee a worker 12 weeks of full pay, subject to a $750 weekly cap, if he or she needs time off to care for a newborn or adopted child. Workers could also take the paid leave to care for a sick spouse, child or parent. California enacted paid family leave legislation in 2004. Under the California law, a worker can take paid family leave earning up to 55% of pay, up to a $840 weekly maximum. Family leave, popular in Europe, has not caught on in America. In California, only 138,000 employees, or about 1% of those eligible, took advantage of the program in 2005. While the Massachusetts "universal" health care bill got a ton of media coverage, I've seen very few stories about the family leave proposal. Maybe people are so worried about losing their health insurance, they just don't care about family leave. When my second son was born in 1996, I worked at a big corporation with generous benefits. I was able to take about 10 days off with pay (I did a lot or work on the phone). For the last seven years, I've owned my own business. The hours are just as long, but I have a lot of flexibility. I can leave my office at 3:30 to coach a Little League practice, but I'll have to go back to work after dinner.


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