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Reps. Boyd, Russo introduce the Ohio Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program

Say inclusive policies will attract workers, business investment to Ohio
November 17, 2021
C. Allison Russo News

COLUMBUS— State Reps. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) and Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) today introduced House Bill (HB) 491, which would establish the Ohio Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program and provide economic stability to working families during such instances as medical emergencies, caring for sick loved ones, or welcoming a newborn into the family.  It would also provide an employee with paid bereavement leave for a stillbirth or the death of a child. Democrats previously introduced paid family leave in the 132nd and 133rd General Assemblies.

“As an adopted daughter and a newer mom who adopted my baby boy, I can gratefully attest to the incredibly important bonding time I’ve benefited from as a daughter and a mom, all made possible because of parental leave,” said Rep. Boyd.  “All families deserve the right to access this critical bonding time without having to worry that they will lose their jobs or the potential for advancement. Passing family paid leave would send a strong message that Ohio is a state where you can work and raise a family.”

Under the Democratic lawmakers’ plan, Ohio workers would have access to 12 weeks of family and medical leave benefits. Funding for the program would be provided entirely by the employee through premiums deducted from employees’ wages. The premium amount would be determined following an actuarial evaluation conducted by the Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The Ohio policy is based on legislation from Colorado, which estimated the total cost to an employee to be approximately $25 to $30 per year.

Per a 2018 Labor Department survey, up to one in five workers and 35 percent of low-wage workers who take leave either lose their job, lose seniority, or lose the potential for advancement. Two-thirds of workers who need to take leave but are unable to take it say they cannot afford to. 

“Paid family leave is critical to both our working families and Ohio businesses who want to grow and remain competitive with a 21st century workforce,” said Rep. Russo.  “As a working mother of three, I was fortunate to have access to and use employer-sponsored paid family leave following the birth of my three children.  This time was invaluable in making sure my family was healthy, stable, and secure before returning to work.  As a small business executive, I can also tell you that offering a paid family leave benefit has helped our employee retention, enhanced recruitment of top talent, and saved us considerable turnover costs.  A public option that is affordable for all Ohio workers and businesses ensures a thriving economy and workforce.”

Research shows that paid family leave policies have a positive impact not only on working families, but on their employers and the local economy as well. In California, where paid family leave has been in effect for over a decade, 90 percent of employers required by state law to provide paid leave reported either positive or neutral effects on profitability, turnover, productivity and worker morale. Meanwhile, women who opt into New Jersey’s paid family leave policy are far more likely to be back at work nine to 12 months after the birth of their child than mothers who do not. 

“We applaud the leadership of Rep. Boyd and Rep. Russo in championing paid family and medical leave in Ohio and hope the state legislature will pass this legislation. By creating a state policy that working people and businesses can rely on, a paid leave program will provide a lasting opportunity to stabilize families, grow the economy, build racial equity, expand opportunities for women, and improve outcomes for children,” said Kate McCleese, Senior Campaign Manager, Paid Leave for the US (PL+US). 

Additionally, paid family leave has positive effects on health outcomes for mothers and their newborns. Rates of infant mortality, immunization and breastfeeding all improve when women have access to paid leave during pregnancy and after childbirth.

HB 491 has been referred to the House Families, Aging, and Human Services committee. It now awaits a first hearing.