CITIZEN VOICES® Require family and medical leave insurance?
Feb 01, 2019
Both bills require employers to pay into the state program – an amount equal to 0.5% of employee wages – or purchase equivalent coverage through a private insurer.
About the state benefits
The state program in HB 712 and SB 1 would allow employees to take leave to care for a new baby, care for a sick family member, or deal with their own health conditions.
The state would give employees 60% of their pay for up to twelve weeks. There are some minimum and maximum limits on how much an employee would get paid.
An employee would only be eligible to take paid leave after working in the program for six months.
For the first five years of the program, the state would pay for startup costs out of the general fund of all tax dollars. After that, the program would have to repay that investment and be self-sustaining.
If the Department of Labor ever determines that there is not enough money in the fund to make payments, the department could change what employers must pay and/or what benefits employees receive.
Differences between the House and Senate bills
As introduced, HB 712 and SB 1 are very similar.
One notable difference: HB 712 only applies to nongovernmental employers, while SB 1 also applies to state employees.
SB 1 also makes clear that an employer could choose to pay for the state program without deducting from employee wages.
Support for mandated family and medical leave
Supporters of HB 712 and SB 1 compare it to the state’s unemployment program. Every employer pays in, and everyone who works in the state is protected.
They point to similar programs in other states, such as Rhode Island, that offer paid family and medical leave. New Hampshire does not even require employers to offer paid sick leave, as is required in Massachusetts and Vermont.
Supporters believe that by legislating universal paid family and medical leave, New Hampshire will attract young workers looking to start a family. It could also reduce medical costs by allowing family members to act as caregivers for aging parents.
Against mandated family and medical leave
Opponents argue HB 712 and SB 1 create a burdensome income tax, since the programs are paid for through 0.5% of employee wages.
Previous proposals allowed employees to opt out of the program – HB 712 and SB 1 do not. An employee might prefer spending that 0.5% of wages on retirement, a savings account, or some other benefit.
Opponents also believe that the bills give the Department of Labor far too much power to adjust payments and benefits without legislative approval.
Gov. Sununu’s alternative
Gov. Chris Sununu has proposed an alternative program, although there is not yet any bill enabling his plan.
Sununu and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott want to pool the state employees of New Hampshire and Vermont, then negotiate with a private insurer to create a family and medical leave program for those employees. Private employers could then opt to join that same program.
That plan has its own supporters and opponents, but without any of the details worked out, it’s too soon to debate the financial viability and affordability of the program.