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Q: How does the Family Medical Leave Insurance Act Work?

  • It would provide up to 12 week of paid time off for all Wisconsin workers
  • Covers 2.6 million workers through a payroll contribution of $2 - $3.50 a week (just like unemployment insurance and worker's compensation)
  • Covers 66% of wages for most workers and up to 95% of wages for workers with the lowest income

Q: How is Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) different from a Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Insurance Act (FMLI)?

  • Federal FMLA allows an individual to take time off to care for a child, spouse or parent.  Wisconsin FMLI is more extensive: it also allows individuals to care for a domestic partner or parent-in-law.
  • Federal FMLA does not cover part-time employees. Wisconsin FMLI covers part-time employees working 20-26 hours a week.
  • Wisconsin FMLI ensures that employees can use accrued time to replace wages while they are using their leave.

Q: What does the Family Medical Leave Insurance Act cover?

A: It would allow workers to take time off for a serious personal or family illness or following the birth or adoption of a child. This bill would protect the FMLA definition of family which includes domestic partners and parents-in-law, while also expanding upon this definition to include siblings and grandparents.

Q: What are characteristics of a good paid leave plan?

  • Available to all workers: All workers should have the option of paid family and medical leave  including part-time workers, self-employed workers, and workers employed by small businesses. Paid leave should also be available in equal amounts to men and women in order not to enforce gender stereotypes which often put the burden of caregiving on women.
  • Comprehensive: Paid leave plans should cover personal illness, and family illness as well as caring for a new baby, a newly adopted child or a new foster child.
  • Affordable: A good plan replaces a significant portion of the workers wages and replace a higher portion for lower-income workers. All workers should be able to take leave when necessary without having to worry about their ability to afford basic living expenses. No one should have to choose between the health of their family and a paycheck.
  • Inclusive: A good paid leave plan should offer an inclusive definition of family that recognizes the diversity of Wisconsin families and caregiving responsibilities. Plans should cover same-sex partners, grandparents, and siblings in order to cover a wide array of family demographics.
  • Available without fear or consequences from employer: A good plan should include provisions to ensure that workers can actually take their leave without fear of retaliation from an employer. Every worker should be able to take leave when necessary and know they will still have a job when they return.

Q: What does an inadequate paid leave plan look like?

  • Too little time: The American Academy of Pediatrics states that 12 weeks is a necessary minimum for parent-infant bonding. Infancy is a critical period for child development, and any plan offering less than 12 week would be inadequate. 
  • Covers too few people: Plans that offer leave only for a parent to care for a new child aren't adequate for Wisconsin families. More than 75% of FMLA leaves are taken to care for a personal or family illness. Even those of us who aren't parents have parents, partners and other loved ones who may at times need care. Paid leave should encompass personal illness, family illness, and time for the birth or adoption of a child.
  • Too little money: When paid leave plans don't offer adequate wage replacement, leave becomes unaffordable for millions of parents. Low-wage workers should receive the highest percentage of their income back so family and medical leave is affordable for everyone. 
  • Discrimination: A good paid leave plan should cover mothers and fathers. Maternity leave plans reinforce gender stereotypes that assume women are more likely to take leave for a new child.

Q: Won't this be bad for business?

A: Multiple studies have shown the benefits to business from making the workplace more family-friendly. In fact, studies in New Jersey and California have shown that the overwhelming majority of businesses say that their state paid family leave programs have had either a neutral or positive impact on their business. Legislation like the proposed Paid Family Leave Insurance Act creates a level playing field, where all employers have the same obligation to provide a minimum standard of benefits and therefore aren’t placed at a competitive disadvantage, which allows small businesses to provide a benefit many could not on their own. In particular, studies show that paid leave helps companies keep good workers, reduces turnover costs, and increase productivity.

Q: Have any other states enacted similar legislation?

A: In the last ten years, California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington State, and Massachusetts have enacted paid family leave legislation. Additionally, at least 21 states had some type of paid family leave proposal under consideration in their state legislative session.

Q: Like the Family and Medical Leave Act, isn't this better enacted on a national level by Congress?

A: Yes, federal legislation is preferable, but right now it does not appear politically possible. And working families who want to spend time bonding with a newborn or who face health care emergencies, can’t afford to wait.

Q: Which medical organizations support paid leave?

A: Several leading medical organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA), the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the American Public Health Association (APHA) have all recognized the health benefits that come with paid leave for children, mothers and fathers.
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