The governor of Massachusetts signed a bill into law recently that would create a paid family and medical leave program, which will go into effect in 2021. Massachusetts’ paid leave program is similar to one that was recently enacted in New York state, as well as a program has been proposed in the Connecticut state legislature. It is time for Connecticut to act by passing a bill during the next legislative session to create a paid family and medical leave program in our state.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 13 percent of individuals working in the private sector across the United States could take paid leave provided through their company in 2017. This percentage is worse for the bottom 25 percent of wage earners; only 6 percent are able to take paid leave from work after the birth of a child or to take care of themselves or other close family members during a severe illness.

Low and middle-income workers are also likely to decrease spending, return to work early, or apply for assistance when they do not have access to paid leave. Studies show that women who are able to take paid leave after the birth of a child are more likely to go back to work after their time away, and that when new parents are able to spend time with their babies, there are reduced rates of infant mortality and increased rates of breastfeeding.

Connecticut’s current paid leave proposal would provide 100 percent of an employee’s wages, up to a cap of $1,000 a week for up to 12 weeks. The program would be paid for through a small payroll deduction, amounting to 0.5 percent of an employee’s weekly earnings. It would be accessible to new parents, both mothers and fathers, family caregivers helping loved ones recover during a severe illness, or to recuperate after one’s own illness or injury.

There is widespread public support for a paid leave program in Connecticut, from individuals as well as business owners. All of the states surrounding Connecticut will have paid leave programs in full effect by 2021. It’s time for Connecticut to join its neighbors and pass a paid family and medical leave bill in 2019.

Kristen Chang lives in Canton and is a MSW candidate at Sacred Heart University.

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