The NH House voted overwhelmingly that family and medical leave insurance is critical to New Hampshire’s efforts to address some of our most significant challenges: growing and maintaining our workforce, caring for our seniors and an aging population, and supporting recovery from the opioid public health epidemic.
A significant majority of working Granite Staters lack access to paid family and medical leave. High workforce participation leaves few caregivers at home so when needs arise, such as the birth of a child or serious illness like cancer strikes, families lose the income they depend on to make ends meet. Family and medical leave insurance is a bridge providing partial wage replacement to keep aging workers in the workforce longer, decrease dependence on food stamps and other government assistance following childbirth, and increase the odds of success for working people recovering from substance abuse. We also heard clearly from young people who testified that this policy will help attract and retain younger workers and their families to our state. Additionally, this bill is good for businesses and the broader economy.
The establishment of a family and medical leave insurance program especially helps small employers, the backbone of the New Hampshire economy, who are often currently unable to offer this benefit to their employees. States who have adopted family and medical leave insurance programs have benefited from greater worker retention, reduced turnover and greater worker productivity.
This bill is tailored to address many of our challenges and does so in a manner consistent with our Granite State values and ethos. The program piggybacks off the existing unemployment system and is designed to minimize administrative duties for businesses. Employers could opt out of the program if they provide an equivalent or better benefit. Participating employers would remit insurance premium payments equal to 0.5% of wages (an average of $5 per week) into the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Fund and be authorized to either pay those premiums themselves as a benefit to employees or to withdraw all or part of the insurance payment as a payroll deduction. The insurance program would provide temporary, partial wage replacement
(60% of wages) to eligible individuals for up to 12 weeks of leave annually to care for themselves or a family member. Medical certification demonstrating need would be required to qualify for benefits.
The insurance program benefits and administration are funded through premium payments. This legislation gives the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council fiduciary responsibilities to monitor the finances of the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Fund and the Commissioner of the Department of Employment Security the ability to adjust premiums or benefits up or down by 10% to ensure solvency of the fund. The proposed premium amount was set based on a New Hampshire specific actuarial analysis completed by UNH Carsey School with support from the U.S. Department of Labor. An overwhelming majority of Granite Staters support the establishment of a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, along with a majority of the House.