A list of commonly asked questions about what a paid family and medical leave program means for Oregonians.

Why do we need a Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program?

Whether it’s the birth of a child, the serious illness of a loved one, or the end-of-life for a parent – we all need time to care for our families. Caring for a family is important work, and shouldn’t mean compromising our economic security.  Our workplace and public policies have not kept pace with the growing number of working parents. Currently, only 13% of people have access to paid family leave at work and while 60% of Oregon workers have access to unpaid family and medical leave through the Oregon Family and Medical Leave Act (OFLA), many cannot afford to take unpaid leave (and 40% of Oregonians are excluded from even this protection because of the size of their employer or their part-time status).

We are behind the rest of the world as it relates to Paid Family and Medical Leave; the United States is one of only a few countries in the world that does not provide paid maternity leave to working mothers, and one of only a few rich nations that does not guarantee the right to paid leave for fathers or workers who are providing care for seriously ill family members.

How would a Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program in Oregon work?

The Paid Family and Medical Leave program will be a self-sustaining insurance program administered by the state.  Paid Family and Medical Leave programs are typically structured as a social insurance program – like Social Security or Unemployment Insurance. Employees and employers contribute less than one percent of payroll to a state-managed insurance fund that administers the benefit.  Employees can then submit a claim for wage replacement when they have a qualifying reason for leave, including:

  • The birth or adoption of a child
  • Taking in a child from the foster care system
  • An employee’s own serious illness
  • The serious illness of an employee’s family member

Who would be eligible for leave?

All workers in Oregon should be able to take paid family and medical leave after the birth or adoption of a new child, for their own serious illness or to care for a family member with a serious illness.  Self-employed Oregonians should also be able to opt into the program.

What other states have enacted Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance programs?

Several states have had self-sustaining Temporary Disability Insurance Programs for decades and have also been expanding them in recent years to include Paid Family Leave benefits. In 2002, California added a Paid Family Leave benefit to its TDI program, New Jersey added Paid Family Leave in 2009, Rhode Island in 2014 and New York in 2016 (with benefits to begin in 2018).  These programs now offer paid family leave benefits as part of the temporary disability benefit.  These insurance programs require minimal investment by employers and employees, generally about 1% of payroll costs, and have proven to be self-sustaining and solvent.

Many other states are also actively considering Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance legislation.

How much will it cost? Who will pay for it?

In California and New Jersey, both with long standing paid family and medical leave programs, the cost has been minimal and amounts to less than $1 per week for each employee.[1] Payroll contributions vary from state to state, but are generally about 1% of payroll and capped at a specific amount.  

How will Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance benefit families?

Access to paid family leave to care for a newborn child has been shown to have significant effects on the health of young children, increased rates of breastfeeding and fathers’ involvement with babies.  Lack of paid maternity leave decreases the likelihood that newborns receive follow-up care, leads to lower rates of immunization, and decreases breastfeeding by four-and-a-half weeks on average, as a result of early returns to work.[2]

Many Oregonians also need time to take care of an ill or aging family member. A survey by AARP found that close to two-thirds of workers between the ages of 45 and 74 provide care to an aging or other adult loved one, and approximately 20% of these working caregivers expect they will need time off from work in the next 5 years due to their caregiving responsibilities.

Paid Family and Medical Leave programs benefit families through improved economic security and health outcomes.

How will Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance benefit employers?

Research in other states with Paid Family and Medical Leave programs shows that these paid leave programs have been good for businesses, despite initial concerns to the contrary.  In California, for example, a 2011 report revealed that six years after the introduction of a statewide paid family leave program, both workers and businesses reported positive effects: in a study of 253 businesses, most employers reported that PFL had either a “positive effect” or “no noticeable effect” on productivity (89 percent), profitability/performance (91 percent), turnover (96 percent), and employee morale (99 percent).[3]

You can read the full issue brief here.

[1] http://fortune.com/2015/02/05/paid-parental-leave-costs/

[2] http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/maternity-paternity-and-adoption-leave-in-the-united-states/

[3] http://cepr.net/documents/publications/paid-family-leave-1-2011.pdf