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Paying for Family Leave

Pete Springer/OPB

Should workers receive paid family leave to care for a newborn or a sick relative? It’s a question being debated in the Oregon Legislature, which last week heard testimony on a bill that would create a state insurance program to accomplish just that. Under the proposal, workers at companies with 25 or more employees would be assessed a two cent per hour payroll tax for a state fund which would then provide $300 a week in paid leave for full-time employees up to six weeks. Part-time workers would receive pro-rated benefits. (Similar legislation narrowly failed in the state Senate in 2007.)

Currently, workers who meet specified criteria are generally eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave under state law (a period which can be extended under certain conditions), but paid leave is not mandatory.

This isn’t just an issue in Oregon. In the nation’s capitol, a bill is pending in Congress that would create a paid family and medical leave insurance program, and other legislation is under consideration that would provide some paid leave for federal workers.

Supporters of paid family leave like Regan Gray of Children First For Oregon call the bill “life happening insurance.” Meanwhile, opponents such as J.L. Wilson, a business lobbyist with Associated Oregon Industries, say the bill is “government at its worst.” He worries that the program will lead to further taxes on workers or businesses and would be unfair to those who don’t need such leave.

What are your thoughts on taxing employees to fund an insurance program to provide paid leave benefits? Have you had to take off work to care for the birth of a baby or sick relative? Did you receive paid leave? Are you a business owner who would like to offer paid leave to your employees? What’s the best way to do this? Whose responsibility is it to pay when an employee needs family leave?


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