Home Delaware Both houses pass amended family leave bill

Both houses pass amended family leave bill

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As expected, the Delaware House and Senate today passed an amended Healthy Delaware Families Act. The bill would provide eligible full-time workers in Delaware with up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave a year, and up to six weeks of paid family caregiving leave, paid medical leave, or paid military leave every two years once fully implemented.

The bill will be sent to Gov. John Carney, who is expected to sign the legislation.

Workers needing to take extended time off from work due to a major family or medical event would be able to earn up to 80% of their average weekly wages through a state insurance program created by the bill. The family leave system would be financed by a tax on employers and employees

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Republican legislators and some business groups said the bill would be costly for smaller businesses that in many cases have struggled during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of the state’s largest employers, including state government, already have paid leave.

The bill passed the House 29-11 on a largely party-line vote, with two northern New Castle County House members, Michael Ramone and Michael Smith voting yes. The vote in the Senate was 14-7 with all of the Senate’s GOP members in the no column.

“Delaware set the example by becoming one of the first states to establish paid parental leave for state employees and teachers. Now, Delaware has done the right thing for thousands of private workers and ensured they have access to paid family and medical leave,” said Rep. Debra Heffernan, the bill’s lead House sponsor.

The bill has been sponsored and championed by State Sen. Sarah McBride, D-Wilmington.

“I want to thank my colleagues in the House for voting today to make sure thousands of working families in Delaware never again are forced to choose between earning a paycheck and welcoming a newborn or providing care to a family member fighting for their life,” said McBride. “The amendment added to Senate Bill 1 in the House is a result of the same thoughtful discussion and negotiation that has occurred throughout our state since Rep. Debra Heffernan and I first brought this landmark legislation forward almost one year ago. I look forward to quickly passing the amended version in the Senate and getting this critical employment benefit to Governor John Carney for his signature.” 

According to sponsors, the bill would create a family and medical trust fund in Delaware modeled after similar programs already passed in nine other states and the District of Columbia. The program would be funded through payroll contributions that total less than 1% of an employee’s weekly pay, and split evenly between employee and employer.

Under the bill, businesses with fewer than 25 workers would not be required to participate in the medical and family caregiving component of the program. Businesses with fewer than 10 workers would not be required to participate in parental leave but may opt in. Businesses with comparable benefits would be able to opt out of the program in whole or in part.

SB 1(S) passed the House 29-11 and now heads to the Senate for final consideration. The bill will receive a final vote this afternoon. Upon passage, it will head to Governor Carney for his signature.

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