Sentinel Editorial: Family leave; New Hampshire’s New Paid Vacation Plan Not What It Could Have Been, But It’s A Start | Editorial
As we noted earlier, the 210-page bill that the legislature added to the budget and that Gov. Chris Sununu signed enacts many unrelated and reprehensible laws that put the state on a divisive path. However, the bill included an important policy initiative that is promising enough to say that it is at least a first step in the right direction – the paid family leave program that was put in place in the last pages of the bill. trailer law.
Paid family leave is increasingly recognized as a desirable workplace benefit, enabling employees to deal with critical family situations, such as the birth or adoption of a child or family member or , in some cases, the serious state of health of the employee. Federal and other laws have long protected employees from losing their jobs if they took unpaid leave for such reasons, but many cannot afford the loss of wages if the leave is unpaid, leaving families exposed at particularly critical times.
For this reason, states are increasingly called upon to implement programs in which insurance premiums subsidize a portion of wages that would otherwise be lost during family leave. With so many two-worker families and working single parents, it’s a sensible and even necessary approach to helping families get through particularly stressful times, and, indeed, the Biden administration has called for a national agenda.
New Hampshire law would begin to meet this need – but only in some way. It clearly recognizes the importance of paid family leave, citing a host of its desirable “benefits” including attracting and retaining workers, including younger ones, allowing parents to bond with new children, meeting needs aging population and improve the workplace. stability, retention and productivity.
These were certainly the benefits laid out by Democrats in the previous legislature that they controlled when they passed their plan, which, like other states that adopted paid family leave, would extend it to everyone. Sununu vetoed the plan, misleading it as an income tax, and advocated a voluntary approach. This has now been adopted as a paid family leave plan by the State of Granite.
Under the plan, participating employees could receive up to 60% of their salary for up to six weeks for leave due to the birth, adoption or foster care of a child, to care for a serious health problem of a family member (including drug addiction or mental health condition) or to treat a member’s overseas deployment or injury or illness serious. As in other states, benefits will be paid under private insurance to be purchased by the state. Since with insurance, the larger the risk pool, the better the pricing, the state will put all of its employees in the program.
What is unique about the New Hampshire approach is that everyone else’s participation is voluntary. Private employers and other non-state public employers with more than 50 employees may also purchase coverage. To encourage employers to do so, they will receive a business tax credit of 50% of their family leave coverage premiums. Employees of those who do not choose or those who employ 50 people or less can also choose to purchase individual coverage at a premium cost of no more than $ 260 per year.
There are still a lot of uncertainties. The state has not performed actuarial analyzes of the plan, NH Bulletin recently reported, and insurance companies’ proposals and pricing terms are not expected until next March, with the program due to launch on January 1. 2023. Even then, a lot will depend on how many voluntary participations the program attracts. If the pool is not large enough, program costs may increase, which could lead a future legislature to reduce it. And Sununu, who is widely believed to be planning a Senate race next fall, deftly set it up so he can trumpet the adoption of the plan, but will likely have no responsibility for it.
With the many benefits of paid family leave that even the current legislature has recognized, making it available to everyone is a smarter choice – for families and for New Hampshire. Nonetheless, the Granite State plan is a start and, if the price turns out to be attractive enough, it may well move the state forward in the right direction. What further enhances its appeal is that people who join the program will also receive paid benefits for time off due to their own serious health conditions, which state employees and other employers participating in the program will not receive. not.
New Hampshire prides itself on its contrarian approach, often for better and sometimes for worse. What will happen to her voluntary paid family leave program will not be known for some time.