Could increased, paid family leave be coming to Utah?

When a loved one experiences a serious health condition requiring you to take time off from work, resulting stress from worrying about keeping your job can add to what is an already difficult situation.

Bills are now under consideration in Washington, D.C. and in Utah and about 30 other state legislatures proposing paid family leave and medical plans.

California has a Paid Family Leave Program in place for state employees. Jan. 1 New York implemented one of the most comprehensive paid family leave policies in the United States.

The National Partnership for Women and Families is a strong supporter of the concept and conducted a nationwide analysis of why each state would benefit from paid leave.

Sarah Fleish Fink is the organization’s director of workplace policy and senior council for the partnership.

“We advocate for paid family and medical leave at the national level, for all workers, as well as at the state level,” she said.

“We found in Utah in 59 percent of households with children, all parents hold jobs. That means if a child in that household becomes seriously ill or when a new child is brought into that family, both parents are working.

“Also, in less than 15 years the share of Utah’s population 65 and older is going to grow by more than a third. This is significant because as we have more older adults in the state they are going to need caregiving, often provided by family members in the form of unpaid caregiving. They need to be able to take time away from work without jeopardizing their economic stability.”

Over 25 years ago Congress passed the Family Medical and Leave Act. It provides unpaid leave.

Most objections to paid leave proposals have to do with cost.

“People are recognizing it’s a problem that the United States still doesn’t have paid leave 25 years after passing the FMLA,” said Fleish Fink.

She said events across the country are trending toward more acceptance of the idea.

“We’ve seen incredible surges in both momentum and support for paid family and medical leave over the past couple of years. We see the media writing more stories about the issue. Elected officials and policy makers are talking about it. They’re recognizing that not having paid leave is a real problem for workers.”

In the U.S. today 15 percent of workers have paid family leave through their employer and fewer than 40 percent have paid medical leave, through employer-provided temporary disability insurance.

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