Comparison of Pending Proposals Weighs Coverage, Affordability
Massachusetts voters may head to the polls next fall to decide whether to make paid family and medical leave a required benefit, and a new report released by the McCormack Graduate School’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy provides them with clear estimates on the proposed program’s costs and coverage.
Authored by UMass Boston economist Randy Albelda and Alan Clayton-Matthews of Northeastern University, Paid Family and Medical Leave: Cost and Coverage Estimates of Three Choices in Massachusetts compares the statewide paid leave program that would be established through the proposed ballot measure with the programs proposed in House Bill 2172 and Senate Bill 1048.
Based on a sophisticated simulator model developed by Albelda and Clayton-Matthews, the report demonstrates that:
- Costs vary from an average annual cost per worker ranging from $175 to $269, and an average weekly contribution of $3.37 to $5.16, which would be split between employer and employee.
- The average weekly benefit paid ranges from $481 to $748.
- Minimum wage workers would pay less, ranging from $38 to $69 a year, and their contribution would be matched by their employer.
- Including administrative costs, the total estimated cost of a statewide paid leave program is well below one percent of total payroll.
- Workers who are Black, Latinx, young, poor, near poor, low-wage, or employed by small-sized firms are currently the least likely to have any wage replacement; all three programs provide a boost in access for these workers, narrowing the gap between those with and those without paid leave.
The report outlines key cost and coverage trade-offs among the three paid family and medical leave proposals (pending the Secretary of State’s approval of the ballot measure signatures).
While they differ in eligibility requirements, amount of maximum benefit, percent of wage replaced, and number of maximum weeks for family leave, each program extends coverage to most workers and does so by spreading and sharing the costs across most of the Massachusetts workforce. Yet, as Albelda and Clayton-Matthews point out, no single paid family and medical leave program will perfectly balance the needs of workers and their employers. The economists suggest using elements from the three proposals to assure that workers with inadequate leave are covered, get sufficient wage replacement, and have enough time to take care of a serious health condition or to have and/or bond with a new child.
“The lack of paid family and medical leave for all workers is simply out of step with today's workforce,” said Randy Albelda, professor of economics at UMass Boston and report co-author. “This report shows that Massachusetts can achieve the policy goals of broad-based coverage for workers in need, adequate wage replacement, and program affordability.”
“Forty percent of women serve as primary breadwinners and they deserve to have access to wage replacement when significant caregiving needs arise,” said Ann Bookman, director of the McCormack Graduate School’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy. “No one should be forced to choose between caring for a family member and getting a paycheck.”
Bookman, a principal author of the 1996 bipartisan report to Congress on the impact of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), explained that adoption of a statewide paid leave program is now essential for Massachusetts workers and families.
"The passage of FMLA was a great advancement for working families in 1993, but it doesn’t cover all workers and remains unpaid,” she said.
Currently, only five states and Washington, D.C., have paid family and medical leave programs or have recently enacted them.
This policy brief was funded by The Women’s Fund of Southeastern Massachusetts, a fund of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts.
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