A bill giving workers paid maternity and medical leave was introduced in the Ohio House at the beginning of April, expanding benefits available to employees taking time off work.
The Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, which the bill would create if passed, would allow workers to continue being paid a portion of their salary when taking leave from work for serious health or family issues or for the birth or adoption of a child.
Rep. Christie Kuhns, D-Cincinnati, and Rep. Janine Boyd, D-Cleveland Heights, introduced House Bill 511 on April 5.
“Working families in Ohio shouldn’t have to choose between earning a paycheck and protecting their families,” Kuhns said in a press release. “The birth of a child or a loved one falling ill should not throw the entire family into hardship if a parent needs to take time off of work to be a caretaker.”
The Family and Medical Leave Act that is currently being used allows employees to take unpaid leave for family and medical reasons. Under the law, job protection is present and health insurance coverage is the same as it is before the employee leaves. It allows for employees to take off 12 work weeks within a twelve-month period, according to the United States Department of Labor.
“(HB 511) covers the FMLA reasons. The benefits are progressive so that low-wage workers get a larger proportion of their usual earnings – 95 percent – and higher earners get 66 percent (up to $1,000/week) up to 12 weeks,” Jeffrey Hayes, program director of Job Quality and Income Security for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said. “All employees are paid, and eligibility is pretty good.”
Employees must have worked at least 680 hours in the previous year in order to be eligible for the program, Hayes said.
According to Innovation Ohio, paid parental leave has multiple benefits. It strengthens women and families, reduces gender and economic disparities, improves critical health outcomes, has positive impacts on the local economy and creates a stronger and more productive workforce.
Dominic Paretti, a legislative aide to Boyd, believes that this paid time between parents and their newborn or adopted child is vital.
“If you’re a parent of a newborn, it will give you the opportunity to nurture that important parent-child bond, which is the cornerstone of healthy development in children. If you’re a parent of an adopted child, the time to build that bond that biology didn’t create is crucial,” Paretti said. “And in all these scenarios, through a minor administrative cost to employers for the automatic deduction of employee contributions from their paychecks, families can care for each other and still pay their bills.”
Paretti also believes that this bill is crucial for people who need to care for people who have disabilities or an illness. There were 115,339 people with a disability in Ohio in 2013, about 13.7 percent of Ohio’s population, according to the most recent statistics from Disability Statistics.
“For anyone who’s ever been a caregiver for a loved one with a debilitating or degenerative illness; for parents of children with severe developmental disabilities or health conditions, and for families in crisis, paid family leave will be an incredible support,” Paretti said. “This is pro-life. This is pro-family. This is worth every vote it takes to pass.”