Legislation now under consideration in the California legislature would expand a 3-year-old, state-run program that provides time off work with pay for bonding with a new child or caring for an ill parent, child, spouse or domestic partner.
SB 727, by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, would create flexibility to help families respond to health emergencies. She believes California’s current paid family leave program excludes too many people in a state where it is common for extended family members to live together.
“It was sort of artificial to say that if you happen to have a parent to take care of you, that’s fine, but if you happen to only have your brother or sister, they can’t take time off,” Kuehl told the Sacramento Bee.
Opponents say that SB 727 would harm the state’s business climate, even though employees on family leave are paid through a state-run insurance program, not by their employers. However, some businesses may find that they have to fill the gap by paying more overtime or hiring temporary workers to fill in.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken no position on SB 727.
California’s paid family leave program compensates workers for up to six weeks per year at 55% of their salary–to a maximum of $882 per week, according to the Bee.
Health problems must be serious enough to warrant inpatient care, hospice or continuous supervision by a medical professional.
More than $840 million in benefits has been distributed to more than 412,000 claimants since the paid family leave program began in July 2004.
“People need to have this safety net,” Brenda Muñoz, spokeswoman for Labor Project for Working Families, told the Bee. The project is a coalition of many labor organizations, including IBEW Local 1245.