Mass. Senate to unveil paid family-leave plan

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BOSTON (AP) – Senate leaders plan to introduce a family leave bill this week that would provide all workers up to 12 weeks’ paid time off to care for newborns and adopted children using a fund that employees, not employers, contribute to.

The legislation would allow employees to get their full salary, up to $750 a week, during the leave and also cover time off to care for sick family members, The Boston Sunday Globe reported.

Senate President Robert Travaglini was expected to formally unveil the proposal, billed as one of the most generous paid leave policy’s in the nation, on Tuesday during a speech at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

“I’ve been through physical and medical problems. Knowing your not going to lose your job and you will continue to be compensated will provide significant comfort,” he said.

Currently, the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act requires private employers with at least six workers to grant women up to eight weeks of unpaid maternity leave for the birth or adoption of a child. The U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act provides for 12 weeks of job-protected leave without pay, but it only covers those who work for larger companies.

The new proposal is modeled after a California law, which pays employees 55 percent of their pay for up to six weeks, up to $840 a week. But unlike the California law, the Massachusetts proposal would make it illegal for an employer to fire someone who opts to take a paid leave.

“California offers partial pay, up to a ceiling, as opposed to full pay. But it doesn’t have job protection built into it. That is why this new proposal would put Massachusetts out front,” said Deven McGraw, chief operating officer of the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Under the bill, all employees would pay a premium – likely between $1.50 and $2.50 a week – into a fund that would pay for the time off, said Travaglini aides.

Local business and labor leaders said they were unsure whether they would back the proposal.

“How it will get funded and how affordable it is are still up in the air,” said Rich Marlin, legislative director of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, which represents 400,000 workers across the state. “In the end we may want some employer contribution.”

Travaglini said he believes the measure will gain support because the premiums would be so low.

Spokesmen for House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and Gov. Mitt Romney said they wouldn’t comment until reviewing the legislation.

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