Vote Yes on h.107
The best way forward, toward a universal equitable Paid Family and Medical Leave Program for Vermont.
Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits employers by providing predictable employment conditions and is a critical tool for recruiting and retaining prime-age high-quality workers. In our 2018 Membership Survey 36.59% of members reported that they offer paid family leave – for comparison 41% contribute to employee health care. Only 13% report challenges with employee retention. In states that have passed Universal Paid Family Medical Leave, studies show turnover rates decreased and average per worker wage bill decreased. Workers across every industry and earning group benefit from PFML, however, it is especially effective in retaining high earning workers in the local labor force.
Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits Vermont by providing relief to state public benefit programs; improving capacity in the early childcare system and decreasing Medicaid spending on temporary residential care.
Under h.107 co-parenting partners can take consecutive benefit claims up to 24 weeks to welcome a new child through birth, adoption or foster. This generates critical capacity in Vermont’s early childcare system. Let’s Grow Kids estimates that 80% of Vermont’s infants and toddlers likely to need care do not have access. Under h.107 workers required to care for an immediate family member experiencing a serious illness can take up 8 weeks leave, the state can expect to see a decrease in Medicaid spending for residential and visiting care programs that currently fill the caretaker gap. Unpaid leave from employment is one of the primary contributors to the gender wage-gap; today the commonly used figure to describe the gender wage ratio is that a woman earns 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
A new study reveals that “43% of today’s women workers had at least one year with no earnings, nearly twice the rate of men,” and that “For those who took just one year off from work, women’s annual earnings were 39% lower than women who worked all 15 years between 2001 and 2015” (Hartmann, 2018).
Why is h.107 the best way forward, toward a universal equitable Paid Family and Medical Leave Program?
In December, the Scott administration came to a collective bargaining agreement with VSEA that will create a paid family leave benefit for the state’s 8,500 employees. The benefit plan agreed to in the 2-year contract is inadequate as a solution for all working Vermonters, providing only 60% wage replacement for up to 6 weeks of leave. Facilitated by a private insurer, companies and individual employees around the state could opt to purchase the same benefit. While this would be an improvement for state employees, we know that as a universal benefit these wage replacements and leave maximums are inadequate for the average Vermonter – and will make the program inaccessible to low and moderate earners, leaving thousands of working Vermonters behind.
A full-time minimum wage worker enrolled in Scott’s plan would only receive about $250 a week in wage replacement and the average earner would receive about $575 a week, for up to only 6 weeks. Under h.107, the average Vermonter would receive about $714 a week in wage replacement and a full-time minimum wage worker would receive about $411 a week (only $20 less than their regular earnings) for up to 12 weeks to welcome a new child. Low-income families cannot support themselves on half a wage. The problem with Scott’s plan with VSEA – is that the path from here is unclear and full of obstacles. This agreement circumvents the legislative process, and details such as the overall cost, contribution rates, job protections, and an appeals process for denied claims are all unknown. Furthermore, we have yet to hear a statement of purpose from the Scott administration to expand this benefit to create a truly universal and equitable program in the future.
We fear that without action in the State House this year – the plan designed by the Scott administration will become the paid family leave benefit for all Vermonters and progress toward a universal program will be halted.
What does h.107 do?
- Provides 12 weeks of bonding leave for each new parent and 8 weeks of family leave to care for a sick or injured family member, by establishing a universal mandatory state paid family leave program through a .2% payroll tax.
- Provides 6 weeks of personal medical leave, by establishing an optional statewide temporary disability benefit through a .38% payroll tax.
- Provides wage replacement during leave at a rate of 90% of the employee’s earnings up to 55% of the Vermont average weekly wage and 55% of earnings over that, up to the Vermont average weekly wage of $964.
- The average Vermont earner would receive about $714 a week in wage replacement for up to 12 weeks to welcome a new child, by contributing about $2 a week for Paid Family Leave OR about $5.50 a week for both PFL and Temporary Disability coverage. Vermonters who make $73,580 a year or more would receive the maximum benefit of $964 a week.
- Tasks the VT Department of Financial Regulation with finding a private insurer to administer benefits and provides an off ramp for the state to establish a public program if the private insurer cannot or does not comply with the law, and the insurer must provide annual audits to the legislature.
- Provides employment protection and protection from workplace retaliation for all workers who take leave benefits through the program.
- Mandates the state study the possibility of creating a universal mandatory temporary disability benefit and the possibility of optional enrollment for self-employed individuals in the future.
“SunCommon’s family leave helps our moms and dads be with their new kids, and then come back ready to work. We hear a lot from our young workforce how important this is to them. I’m sure that families across Vermont will be stronger when this is available to employees wherever they work.”
Duane Peterson, Co-Founder of VBSR Member Business SunCommon
VBSR Members want a universal equitable Paid Family and Medical Leave Program for all Vermonters. It is time we take an essential and meaningful step forward, and pass bill h.107 with a strong majority. We need you to take action now – VBSR urges members of the Vermont House of Representatives to vote YES in favor of h.107.
Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility is a business association with over 730 business members who advocate for policies which support workers, our communities and the environment.
We give our members a voice at the state house on sustainable economic development and social equity issues. Our members, whether multi-national like Ben & Jerry’s, or a start-up like Mamava, have found great success by leading social change and environmental stewardship through innovative solutions and building employee first workplaces.
To learn more about VBSR, our policy agenda, our members, upcoming events and to find resources on corporate social responsibility visit vbsr.org or contact our Jordan at email@example.com.