State Reps. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) today announced legislation to establish the Ohio Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, which would provide economic stability to working families in times of a medical emergency, when caring for a sick loved one, or welcoming a newborn into the family. While federal law provides some workers the ability to take leave, it does not provide those workers with any guarantees that they will have compensation while on leave.
“In a Wall Street Journal op-ed just last year, the president’s chief advisor discussed the administration’s interest in a national paid family leave program, describing it as ‘an investment in America’s working families’ that would help ‘close the gender wage gap, increase stability for working parents and strengthen families,’” said Rep. Boyd. “If the White House can demonstrate a legitimate interest in helping working families taking care of a newborn, a sick loved one or a medical emergency, then the Statehouse should not hesitate to do the same.”
Under the Democratic lawmakers’ plan, Ohio workers would have access to 12 weeks of family and medical leave benefits. Qualified employers will be required to deduct and withhold premiums from employee’s wages in order to pay for program benefits, but an employer may opt to pay the contributions on behalf of their employees.
“Ohioans shouldn’t have to choose between the health and well-being of their family and their financial security,” said Rep. Boggs. “Ohio’s adoption of a state wide family paid leave policy would send a strong message that Ohio is a place where you can work and take care of your family.”
“Paid family leave supports family stability, strengthens child and parent bonds and improves health outcomes,” said State Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus), who is sponsoring the Paid Family Leave Act, companion legislation in the state senate. “This bill will contribute to a healthier economy and a more productive, family-friendly workforce.”
Research has shown that paid family leave policies have a positive impact not only on working families, but on their employers and the local economy as well. In California, where paid family leave has been in effect for over a decade, 90 percent of employers required by state law to provide paid leave reported either positive or neutral effects on profitability, turnover, productivity and worker morale. Meanwhile, women who opt into New Jersey’s paid family leave policy are far more likely to be back at work nine to 12 months after the birth of their child than mothers who do not.
"My business offers paid maternity and medical leave via a short-term disability policy, but unfortunately this is not the norm," said Bob Szuter, co-owner and founder of Wolf's Ridge Brewing in Columbus. "Most small businesses simply don't have the resources to offer the kind of robust paid leave benefits that larger companies typically provide. A state-administered paid leave insurance program, however, would help make Ohio's small businesses more competitive by ensuring that all workers can access paid family leave regardless of the size of their employer, making it easier for small firms to attract and retain talented employees.”
In addition, research has shown that access to paid family leave has positive effects on health outcomes for mothers and their newborns. Rates of infant mortality, immunization and breastfeeding all improve when women have access to paid leave during pregnancy and after childbirth.
“Just 15 percent of Ohio workers have access to paid family leave, and for the majority of Ohioans, the option of taking unpaid time off isn’t really an option,” said Elizabeth Brown, Executive Director of the Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network. “The numbers show that access to paid family leave means healthier babies, financially secure families and a stronger economy. Twenty-five years after passage of the Family Medical Leave Act, Ohio must take the next step to ensure all families can access job-protected, paid time off for family and medical leave.”
In Ohio, the cities of Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton have all announced plans to establish paid family leave programs. Earlier this year, New York joined California, New Jersey and Rhode Island in U.S. states leading on leave.