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Be An Employer Resource By Knowing Paid Family Leave Laws

Paid leave benefits have become infinitely more complex to understand because of wildly varying policies across municipalities, counties and states.

Because of this variance, understanding and building the right amount of paid leave coverage for your clients’ employees can prove challenging, but ultimately crucial to ensure employee health and happiness.

With a patchwork of policies to navigate, brokers have to provide guidance on the right mix of benefits while staying compliant with current laws.

Although most employers offer a baseline of traditional paid leave benefits, such as paid time off and short-term disability, additional benefits can give employers the leg up they need to attract and retain top talent. Workers’ individual and family needs continue to evolve, and more employees than ever are using paid time off for things like taking care of a newborn or an elderly family member. As a result, employers and employees are starting to think about benefits differently.

By sorting through the policy noise and understanding all available options, you can help your clients select the right components of a paid leave benefits program while staying competitive and compliant with current laws.

Being A Resource

Having a solid understanding of current paid leave benefits trends is important to help set the stage for building your clients’ own programs. The political dialogue has cast light on employees’ needs for more robust benefits offerings. This conversation is being driven by members of both parties, and especially by presidential candidates, increasing the odds that tangible action will occur on the issue.

In the 2019 legislative cycle, several states have had some version of a paid family and medical leave bill introduced in either chamber of their legislature. Additionally, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress may continue to introduce paid leave legislation, with some candidates having gone so far as making it a core component of their election platform. Despite the varying degrees of proposed legislation, many of these proposals can serve as a guide for employers looking to provide effective paid benefits programs.

By keeping up with current trends surrounding paid family leave benefit legislation, you can provide your clients with a solid understanding of what is needed to accommodate shifting employee needs. This understanding also can encourage clients to consider additional paid leave benefits that may attract top talent. Proactively updating clients on new regulations and providing recommendations on how to best accommodate employees is the first step to creating robust paid leave programs that help retain employees.

What’s Trending

Paid family leave is a key benefit for many employees to have, as it helps balance the demands of work and family without sacrificing income while creating economic security. The workforce is comprised of a variety of different ages and demographics. Many employees may be starting families or joining the sandwich generation, in which they are also caring for aging parents. Additional paid family leave benefits that supplement and go beyond the traditional benefits can prove crucial for employees needing to care for aging parents or starting their own families.

By keeping tabs on current trends, you can understand what your clients’ employees may be looking for in a benefits program. In fact, an MSN/Business Insider poll showed 93% of Americans agree that mothers should receive some form of paid leave after a baby arrives, and 85% of Americans believe the same about paid paternal leave. This widely supported notion of paid parental leave is just one major trend. Some of the most common and crucial paid state family leave trends include:

  1. Increased income replacement levels for lowest-income earners.
  2. Expanded family relationships, like “chosen family.”
  3. Increased focus on portability of benefits, like not having to re-serve waiting periods when moving from one covered employer to another.

Outside of the traditional Family and Medical Leave Act, several proposals have been introduced in the 116th Congress that aim to expand paid leave options, such as the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act), which proposes the creation of a national wage insurance program for persons engaged in family caregiving activities or for their own serious health conditions. The reinvigorated FAMILY Act, which allows 12 weeks of paid leave for family and personal medical needs and is funded through a 0.4% payroll tax split between employers and employees, is becoming increasingly popular among politicians of both parties.

Additionally, the New Parents Act, which allows parents of a new child to receive Social Security benefits for parental leave, has also been reintroduced. Congressional Republicans introduced the The Child Rearing and Development Leave Empowerment (CRADLE) Act, which would allow both natural and adoptive parents to receive one, two or three months of paid leave benefits in exchange for postponing the activation of their retirement benefits for two, four or six months.

The Importance Of Robust Leave Benefits

The consequences of employees not having the resources they need for family and self-care are becoming clear. Because paid family leave benefits can be difficult for employees to understand, some have resorted to “leave stacking,” where a worker stacks multiple paid time off and benefits options – like sick time and vacation, plus short-term disability – to maintain their income while taking care of their family or themselves. This needlessly complicates things for workers, since they have to spend time and energy micromanaging their benefits because there’s not an all-encompassing solution.

As an advisor, you can help clients review their paid leave programs to determine how their current plans compare to proposed legislation in states where they have employees. No matter what paid benefits your client offers, you can help them find the crucial information needed to build a robust paid leave program that is competitive and compliant. You can be there every step of the way to help your client understand proposed legislation, choose the appropriate benefits to offer and assist them in implementing the appropriate programs.

Kate Wilkinson is senior director and assistant counsel for The Standard. She also has worked as the human resource director for a large grocery store chain. Kate may be contacted at [email protected] [email protected].


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