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July 03, 2007
Say Hello to Paid FMLA Bill

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) have introduced legislation that would provide up to 8 weeks of paid benefits to employees who take leave covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act.

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The Family Leave Insurance Act of 2007 (SB 1681) would establish a fund through which employees, employers, and the federal government would share the cost of providing compensation during leave for reasons allowed under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Under the legislation, employers would pay leave benefits to employees through their regular payroll. Employers would be reimbursed by the Family Leave Insurance Fund, which the legislation would create.

Benefits would be tiered based on wages:

  • 100% of weekly earnings for employees earning up to $20,000
  • 75% of weekly earnings for employees earning $20,001 to $30,000
  • 55% of weekly earnings for employees earning $30,001 to $60,000
  • 40% of weekly earnings for employees earning $60,001 to $97,000

The legislation would require employees to pay insurance premiums for 12 months and have worked for the same employer for 12 months to receive benefits.

Participation in the program would be mandatory for all businesses with more than 50 employees, but companies with equivalent or better benefits would be able to choose to self-insure rather than participate in the federal program.

Employees, employers, and the federal government would share the costs of the program. Both employees and employers would be required to pay a premium for the insurance, equivalent to 0.2 percent of each employee's earnings. Employers with fewer than 50 employees would be able opt in to the fund at a 50 percent discount, with premiums equivalent to 0.1 percent of earnings and the federal government paying administrative costs that are not covered by the fund.

Dodd is the author of the Family and Medical Leave Act and is running for president.

In May, lawmakers in the state of Washington created a program that will provide paid family leave to eligible employees. The state's family leave insurance program, which will begin in October 2009, will offer up to 5 weeks of benefits per year for parents to bond with a new child (a newborn or adopted).

In 2004, California became the first state to provide paid time off for workers to provide care for a child, spouse, parent, or domestic partner with a serious health condition, or to bond with a new child. The program is funded entirely by workers' contributions.

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