Paid Family Leave a Lamont Priority

Some are concerned that paid family and medical leave could have negative consequences for smaller businesses

Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal for a paid family and medical leave policy in Connecticut saw a public hearing on Tuesday.

His proposal differs slightly from the one being pushed progressive Democrats in the General Assembly, as Lamont’s would allow for an exemption for employers that provide a paid family and medical leave benefit to their employees that is separate from the state program that’s under consideration.

Carmina Hirsch is a rarity at hearings on the issue, as she’s a small business owner who supports the policy, saying it would not be a strain on her small law firm. Hirsch has two employees in her Shelton law office.

"When and if they need to take that time to care for themselves, a sick parent, spouse, a sick child, you’re not paying that employee for the time they’re not working so you can hire a temporary worker for example from a temp agency," she told the Labor Committee Tuesday.

One of Lamont’s senior advisors, Colleen Flanagan Johnson, told NBC Connecticut in a statement, “In Connecticut, middle and upper-income individuals working for large employers are more likely to have access to PFML, but only about six percent of low-income workers do, often resulting in increased business turnover, as well as costs to the state for public assistance. The Governor is proposing residents earn paid leave by contributing a small portion of their pay toward a family and medical leave trust fund similar to insurance.”

The proposal would have all employees deduct .05 percent of their earnings into a fund to pay for people to take time off.

Eric Gjede with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association says smaller employers are very worried about the consequences of such a mandate on businesses.

“We still are deeply concerned about this thing being an unsustainable long-term liability for the state of Connecticut,” he said.

He described Hirsch, the small business owner who testified in favor of the bill, as an outlier who does not speak for most employers. CBIA represents thousands of businesses in Connecticut.

“I don’t think that the money's they are going to take from employee wages to help fund the program is nearly enough and also I think that impact on small business in particular is going to be devastating,” Gjede said.

Hirsch argues that Connecticut would become one of the more competitive and business-friendly states in the region with a policy like this, saying that employees would be valued more than they currently are.

“Do you want your sick employee at work not being able to function and do their job because they have to be there or do you want do you want to give them the time to recover from the illness they’re going through, and come back full steam ahead and serve your business well?”

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