FMLA turns 25, but Montana still needs policies to balance family & work

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the enactment of the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA), our nation’s unpaid leave law. Much has changed since 1993 and today working Americans need paid leave in order to balance work and home demands.

During the 2017 legislative session, MBPC worked with the Time for Montana coalition to attempt to pass a Montana family medical leave insurance (FAMLI) program. The FAMLI Act would combine small amounts from employees and employers (less than one percent of wages) to create a dedicated funding stream for workers when they need time off to care for themselves or a loved one. From these small contributions, workers would receive a portion of their wages while on leave. After looking at successful programs in other states and national studies, we know paid leave benefits families, businesses, and the economy.

Paid Leave Improves Working Families’ Financial Security and Health

  • Lack of access to paid leave creates financial burdens for any family, but particularly impacts single parents and those experiencing poverty.
  • In Montana, two out of three workers do not qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Paid leave helps women remain employed, earn more, and progress in their careers.
  • Paid leave establishes stronger bonds between fathers and children when fathers take even two weeks off after a child’s birth.
  • Newborns with parents who accessed paid leave are more likely to receive pediatric check-ups and immunizations, and children can have better cognitive and behavioral skills.
  • Paid leave allows working caregivers the ability to care for an adult relative without risking economic security.

Paid Leave Helps Businesses Attract and Retain Skilled Workers

  • At a time when tens of thousands of workers will be aging out of the Montana labor force, paid leave helps businesses remain competitive and strengthens the workforce.
  • Approximately 137,000 working Montanans are potentially considering retirement. Paid leave would help businesses attract and retain skilled workers as older Montanans leave the workforce.
  • Paid leave helps businesses save money through reduced employee turnover rates.
  • Paid leave increases the likelihood that employees will return to work after leave.
  • Employers with paid leave policies benefit from improved worker attitudes, which keep employees motivated and productive and businesses profitable.

Paid leave benefits society through increased work participation, lower public assistance use, and taxpayer savings.

  • Encouraging labor force participation among women and low-wage workers improves their financial security and helps stimulate local economies. Paid leave in Montana could keep tens of millions of dollars in the pockets of workers who will turn around and spend these dollars at local businesses, which stimulates the overall economy.
  • Family friendly policies could reduce public assistance use. Women with access to temporary disability insurance or paid family leave report receiving an average of $577 less in assistance income in the year following their child’s birth.

Unfortunately the FAMLI Act did not pass in 2017. However, the vote in committee garnered bi-partisan support and was only one vote shy of advancing to the House floor. We are optimistic that there is support for such a bill in 2019, and we will continue to work with businesses, individuals, advocacy organizations, and policy makers to move this critical issue forward. To read more about our proposal for a Montana-specific insurance program, read our FMLI policy design.

To learn more about the coalition working on paid and sick leave visit www.timeformontana.org.

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