If Massachusetts joins the three states that currently guarantee paid time off for medical and caregiving needs, it would increase the annual number of leaves taken by 13,000 and cost an estimated $491.4 million per year, a new report from the University of Massachusetts Boston finds.
The Massachusetts bill would require all private sector and state employers to pay workers a percentage of their weekly wages for up to 12 weeks for the birth of a new child or other family caregiving, and up to 26 weeks for health conditions.
The authors of the UMass report calculated that the $491.4 million dollar annual cost, if spread amongst the entire Massachusetts workforce, would cost about $159 per worker, or $3 per worker per week.
“We already know that a paid family and medical leave program shares the risk of taking leave across the workforce, levels the employment playing field, and reduces inequality,” said Randy Albelda, professor of economics at UMass Boston and co-author of the report. “Now we also know that it is affordable.”
The paid family and medical leave bill under consideration in the state legislature is gaining momentum, and if passed, is expected to benefit low-wage workers and women, who often can’t afford to take time off, even after giving birth to a child.
Federal law currently requires employers to offer workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new child or another family member. Rhode Island, California, and New Jersey are the only three states that have already passed paid family and medical leave bills, but New York recently passed a paid leave bill, and 13 states have pending legislation.
In Massachusetts, the bill faces some opposition from Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a business group. According to The Boston Globe, this group estimates that paid family and medical leave would actually cost about six times as much as the UMass report estimates.
The leave program would increase the number of workers who get some sort of wage replacement when they go on leave by more than 8 percentage points, from 72 to nearly 81 percent, according to the UMass report.
For low-income workers, the increase would jump to nearly 20 percentage points, however.
Read the full UMass report here.