Paid Family and Medical Leave supports family well-being and the economy.
It’s time for paid family and medical leave in Hawaiʻi.
What is paid family and medical leave?
Paid family and medical leave allows workers to take time off and still receive part of their income when they need to care for their own serious health needs or those of a loved one, or to bond with a new child.
The United States is the only developed country without national paid family and medical leave. To fill that gap, thirteen states plus the District of Columbia have passed paid family and medical leave laws. Hawaiʻi should join them.
Paid family and medical leave includes:
In some states, paid family and medical leave also includes:
Though both provide time off, paid family and medical leave is not the same as paid sick days. Paid family and medical leave provides time off for major life events, like the birth of a child or extended illnesses. In contrast, paid sick days usually do not provide enough time for recovery from childbirth or a major medical event.
Why do we need paid family and medical leave?
When Hawaiʻi workers face life circumstances that make it impossible for them to work, they do not have any legal right to paid family and medical leave. Currently, only one in four private sector workers has access to paid family and medical leave. Lower-income workers in Hawaiʻi – who are more likely to be Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander – are the least likely to have paid family and medical leave, while they need that financial support the most.
The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Hawaiʻi Family Leave Law (HFLL) protect an employee from losing their job while they are caring for a sick relative or their self or bonding with a new child, but that leave is unpaid. And since the FMLA and HFLL apply only to very large employers, most Hawai‘i workers are not even eligible for that unpaid leave.
Most working mothers who give birth can get partial pay through Hawaiʻi Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) to recover from childbirth, but TDI cannot be used by non-birth parents or to care for other family members. Meanwhile, Hawaiʻi has 154,000 unpaid family caregivers, providing 144 million hours of care worth $2.6 billion per year, and those numbers will continue to increase as our population ages.
We have been expecting Hawaiʻi workers, especially moms, to just cobble together family care. We need paid family and medical leave so that Hawaiʻi families and businesses are never scrambling for piecemeal solutions when illness strikes, a serious caregiving need arises, or a new child arrives.
How does paid family and medical leave help working families and local businesses?
Research has found that states with paid family and medical leave have seen significant health, social and economic benefits. Families who have access to paid leave – especially working women – are healthier, more economically secure, more likely to stay in the workforce, and less likely to need public benefits.
It’s no mystery why: Paid leave helps children by helping their parents. New parents with paid family and medical leave spend more time bonding with their children, improving health and education outcomes. And paid family and medical leave allows workers to stay home to care for themselves or their loved ones without the economic and mental stress of losing their jobs or falling into poverty.
Research has found that paid family and medical leave is good for business, because employees are more productive, which can help increase profits, and loyal, which lowers turnover costs.
Statewide paid family and medical leave also helps even the playing field for small businesses. Currently, most small businesses cannot afford to offer adequate paid family and medical leave to their employees, which puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting and retaining the best workers.
With a statewide paid family and medical leave program, small payroll deductions would go into a state fund, which workers would apply to when they need to take leave. Since employees would be paid from the state fund while taking family or medical leave, employers would not need to pay them while they are on leave.
Enabling small businesses to provide paid family and medical leave through a state program helps them compete for the best workers, and gives employers the peace of mind that they are doing what’s best for their employees. Not surprisingly, recent surveys show that two-thirds of small business owners support paid family and medical leave.
Similarly, as Hawaiʻi struggles to keep our working-age families from moving away, we are competing with states that have paid family and medical leave – including California, Washington and Oregon – for the best workers. When young couples are deciding where to start a family, paid family and medical leave may be an important deciding factor for them.
How does paid family and medical leave work?
In most of the states that have passed paid family and medical leave laws, the program:
- Is a state-run benefit program, like Social Security or Medicare
- Is funded by small payroll deductions that go into a state fund, which workers apply to when they need to take leave
- Employers do not need to pay employees while they are on leave, since they are paid from the state fund
- Is available to both full and part-time workers
- Provides between 8 and 30 weeks of paid leave per year
- Provides a higher portion of wages to lower-income workers, so they can afford to take the leave
- Ensures that employees have a job to go back to after they take leave
The family leave analysis report includes an economic analysis and eligibility and benefit modeling; a feasibility study; opinion polling of Hawaiʻi workers; and focus groups of local labor unions, employers, parents, and family caregivers. Among many detailed findings, it found that paid family and medical leave in Hawaiʻi is:
- Not expensive
- Supported by 94% of Hawaiʻi workers
No one in Hawaiʻi should ever have to choose between their loved ones and their paycheck. It’s time for paid family and medical leave in Hawaiʻi.
Imagine what your life would look like if your family had access to paid family and medical leave. It's time to ask your legislators: Are you doing everything you can to support families like mine? Take action by signing up for emails and action alerts, signing the petition, or joining the coalition.