Opinion

Paid family leave legislation would level the playing field for Colorado’s small businesses

Author: Hunter Railey - April 18, 2018 - Updated: April 19, 2018

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Hunter Railey

The Family Medical Leave Insurance Program (FAMLI) is currently advancing through the Colorado General Assembly, and that’s great news for the state’s 570,000 small businesses because this measure would benefit small firms by lowering turnover, boosting productivity and enhancing employee morale.

The FAMLI Act would provide workers with up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year to bond with a new child or take care of an ill relative. Many small employers like this program in part because it wouldn’t cost them any money — the program would be funded through a modest employee contribution, thereby taking the financial burden off of employers. That’s why this type of family leave makes the most sense for small businesses: Other proposals, like tax credits, could create more costs and paperwork for small employers that don’t have resources to spare and don’t guarantee benefits for all employees.

This legislation would make a real difference for small employers like Chia Basinger, owner of Sweet Action Ice Cream in Aurora. He knows it’s important to treat his employees well, but like so many small business owners it’s difficult for him to offer robust benefits like paid leave.

“The FAMLI Act would give my hard-working employees access to a critical benefit without placing a financial burden on my company,” he said. “As a business owner, I believe this kind of legislation would help reduce scheduling issues and instill a sense of loyalty within my employees. Beyond that, it would give my employees peace of mind knowing they can care for family members without fear of being replaced.”

Most small employers say taking care of their employees is crucial to retaining a productive and talented workforce. Policies that promote employee satisfaction and productivity also result in lower turnover, reducing costs and headaches for small businesses. A state-administered paid family leave program would enable small business owners to foster a better workforce while protecting their workers and their bottom lines.

A state-run paid leave insurance program would also help make small businesses more competitive by ensuring that all workers can receive paid family leave, regardless of the size of the company at which they work and what types of benefits it can afford to offer. What’s more, many small business owners agree that paid family and medical leave isn’t just the right thing to do, but that it makes good business sense. Scientific opinion polling from Small Business Majority found 56 percent of small employers favor the creation of state-administered paid family and medical leave insurance programs funded entirely by modest employee contributions. What’s more, 70 percent say it is important to establish a national paid medical and family leave insurance program. In the absence of that sort of program, however, a state program here in Colorado would go a long way toward helping local small businesses.

We also know from our polling that many small employers are already addressing family medical leave and parental leave issues, often on an informal or case-per-case basis. Nationwide, 7 in 10 small businesses have a formal or informal family leave policy to allow employees to care for an ill family member. Twenty-six percent offer maternity leave while nearly 4 in 10 (37 percent) offer both maternity and paternity leave. However, 34 percent report being unable to offer any sort of parental leave and many employers don’t have the resources to offer paid family or medical leave benefits. A state paid leave program could level the playing field for these firms struggling to offer paid benefits.

Small business owners understand how important it is for their employees to be able to balance their work and family responsibilities and want them to have reasonable options for doing so, but they need options that also make sense for their bottom lines. The Colorado House of Representatives already passed this bill, and now it’s time for the Senate to recognize how important this is to Colorado’s small businesses.

Hunter Railey

Hunter Railey

Hunter Railey is the Colorado outreach manager for Small Business Majority.