Family and Medical Leave
Paid family and medical leave insurance provides workers with paid time off if they become incapacitated due to illness or injury, need to care for an ill or injured family member, or have recently given birth to or adopted a child.
Family and medical leave insurance is sometimes offered voluntarily by employers and provided by private insurance companies, but can also be mandated by government bodies and managed as a public program.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act
While New Hampshire does not currently have a statewide paid family and medical leave program, there is a federal Family and Medical Leave Act. That law requires companies with over 50 employees to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid family or medical leave. Employers must give employees back their jobs when they return to work.
Under the FMLA, in a given year, eligible employees are entitled to 12 workweeks of leave to:
- Give birth to and take care of new baby, or care for a newly adopted child;
- Take care of a sick spouse, child, or parent;
- Recover from a debilitating illness;
- Tend to urgent circumstances involving a spouse, son, daughter or parent in the military.
Employees can also take up to 26 workweeks of leave in a year to care for a close family member who is an ill or injured servicemember.
Instead of taking the 12 weeks of leave all at once, employees may take intermittent FMLA leave when it is medically necessary. For example, an individual might work fewer hours per week in order to receive scheduled treatments. When leave is needed for medical treatments, employees are expected to make a reasonable effort to coordinate their schedule with their employer. An employee may also take intermittent leave in larger blocks of time depending on the circumstance.
Drug rehab and FMLA
In some cases, it may be possible to take FMLA leave to enter drug rehab, but there are plenty of exceptions. For example, if the employee fails to give the employer advanced notice, or if an employer has a clear policy forbidding drug use. The Department of Labor also makes clear that FMLA leave can only be taken for substance abuse treatment provided by a health care provider or an entity referred by a health care provider. You can’t take FMLA leave simply because you are addicted to drugs.
Debate over paid family and medical leave
There is no state requirement that companies offer paid family and medical leave in New Hampshire. The Granite State also does not have a public family and medical leave program.
However, moves to change that policy have taken place in recent years. In 2018, a bill that would have created a family and medical leave program passed the New Hampshire House but died in the Senate. The bill would have required employers to participate or offer equivalent family and medical leave coverage through private insurance. Employees would contribute 0.67% of their pay in exchange for six weeks of paid leave.
In 2019, Governor Sununu vetoed SB 1, a family and medical leave plan that would have offered 12 weeks of leave paid at up to 60% of wages, funded with a 0.5% payroll tax. There was no provision to opt-out.
Sununu had lobbied for his own alternative plan run by a private insurer. Employees would choose whether or not to opt-into the program. The Legislature nixed this idea.
What do you think? Should New Hampshire institute some form of paid family and medical leave? Or, should individual business owners continue to decide for themselves whether to offer such a perk? Let your legislator know what you think by sending them an email, giving them a call, or writing a letter.
“NH should create a paid family and medical leave insurance plan.”
- Guaranteeing paid family and sick leave helps keep employees in the workplace and reduces the likelihood that they will end up requiring public assistance.
- Since companies may not offer family leave voluntarily, particularly to lower-skilled or less-educated workers, government should ensure that employees retain the right to care for a sick family member or new child without risking their job or losing income.
- The workforce in New Hampshire is growing older, which could lead to economic challenges. Offering paid family and medical leave could make the Granite State more appealing to younger workers, who are more likely to be considering starting a family. Medical leave would also help residents care for aging relatives.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 20% of private industry workers in the United States have access to paid family leave. This shows that private companies can’t be relied upon to voluntarily offer leave programs to their workers.
- A family leave program doesn’t have to be a mandate on all workers. Participation could be voluntary, which gives workers the choice whether or not they want to pay their share to take part.
“NH should not create a paid family and medical leave insurance plan.”
- Companies and workers should be free to negotiate their own policies on family and sick leave, vacation time, termination, and other such protections, without government interference.
- Paid sick or family leave requirements increase costs for employers by mandating that they purchase insurance, by requiring them to accommodate long-term absences, and/or through higher taxes. This ultimately impacts workers, as employers are less able to make new hires or increase pay.
- Even a voluntary family leave program poses a potential risk to all New Hampshire taxpayers. If workers can choose whether or not to participate, it’s those most likely to need the program who will take part. This could lead to costs that outstrip revenues — ultimately leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab.
- The family leave program is not insurance, but in truth a new tax on employee wages. As such, a public family and medical leave program opens the door to a mandated income tax in New Hampshire.
- Rather than create a public family and medical leave insurance program that cuts into employee wages, New Hampshire should consider ways to encourage workers to make the choice to build their savings accounts.