As a former small business owner with as many as 60 full-time employees, I can attest to both the need for paid family leave and the difficulty of shouldering the expense. The Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) bill that is being introduced this session addresses both issues. (I am a founding member of Good Business Colorado, a business organization advocating for economic mobility for Colorado workers.)
While the bill details have not been finalized, it will create an insurance program, which both employees and employers will pay into. The premiums are estimated to be between $1 and $5 per week depending on how much the person earns. Employees will be eligible for 12 weeks of wage replacement at between 75 percent and 90 percent of their earnings up to $1,000 per week. Lower-paid employees will get a higher percentage of their pay and higher earners a lower percent. The rules for qualification, documentation and job guarantees mirrors that of the Federal Medical Family Leave Act with one important distinction: Every worker in Colorado will be covered no matter how many people his or her company employs, including those who are self employed.
A 2017 study by The Small Business Majority found that 70 percent support paid family leave. Employees are paid from the insurance fund so their employer can hire temporary help or offer overtime to other employees. A Rutgers University study showed New Jersey's paid leave program increased retention, decreased turnover and improved productivity. This bill will also allow smaller businesses to compete for talent with larger companies that are able to offer a paid leave benefit.
Wages have not kept up with costs. Many working people are barely able to provide for their family's basic needs. An unforeseen medical situation can be a disaster. Hard-working Coloradans should not have to choose between caring for themselves or for a loved one and putting food on the table.
FAMLI will provide meaningful help to working people just when they need it the most.