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Connecticut Lawmakers to Discuss Paid Family, Medical Leave Bill This Session

CT Senate Democrats/Creative Commons
State Senator Beth Bye speaks at her Connecticut Wartime Service Medal Award Ceremony at the State Capitol in Hartford in November 2015.
A proposed bill calls for creating a trust fund that employees can fall back on when they need to take family or medical leave.

Should Connecticut require paid family and medical leave? The state Department of Labor will report back to lawmakers this legislative session on how the state could implement the proposed law. 

The United States is often criticized for its lack of family friendly policies when compared to other nations. State Senator Beth Bye said the U.S. is one of three countries in the world that does not mandate paid leave.

"The others are Oman and New Guinea. So we are really in a very small group that don't value this time that employees need to take care of their families," Bye said.

Connecticut passed a Family and Medical Leave Act -- otherwise known as FMLA -- in 1990, before the federal government did. It allows workers to take time off for a serious illness or to care for a sick relative or a new child.

The law protects a worker's job, but it's unpaid time off. Advocates say many end up not taking time off because they can't afford it, or they decide to leave their jobs altogether.

Connecticut's bill calls for creating an employee trust fund. Bye said workers would funnel a third of one percent of their pay into the fund and when they need to take family or medical leave, they would be paid for up to three months.

Some in the business community oppose the idea, but Bye said Connecticut's proposal benefits employers and their workers.

"And we believe it will help for retention of employees because they're able to take the time off to care for their relatives and babies when they need it," Bye said.

During the last session, lawmakers allocated money to pay for a consultant report to look into the process of implementing paid leave. It was expected February 1, but a Department of Labor spokesperson said the report is delayed but will be ready in the next several weeks. The report will go to the legislative Labor and Appropriations Committees for discussion.

Only three states have paid family and medical leave laws: Rhode Island, New Jersey, and California. 

Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.

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