Rep. Bonham: A business friendly Family Leave Law

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By Taxpayer Foundation of Oregon
Capitol Update Series

Most of the proposed paid family leave bills died midway through the Oregon Legislature, but one remains—and it’s likely to hurt small businesses.

Many lawmakers have been making a promise to provide workers with paid family leave for births, adoptions, and other medically necessary time off, and introduced legislation to do so. Under current law, employees working for companies with 25 or more workers can receive up to 12 weeks off for military or family leave, but under the new legislation, they would be paid.

House Bill 3031, opposed stridently by small businesses, would have provided up to 38 weeks of paid leave, set up a state-run medical leave insurance program paid for by both employers and employees, and required employers to guarantee workers’ job protection while training and paying for a temporary employee to fill in during the absence. It provided no exemption for small businesses with fewer than 25 employees.

Rep. Daniel Bonham, a Republican from The Dalles, offered an alternative—House Bill 3385—to enable employees to pay into a fund that would cover their costs for up to 18 weeks of paid family leave. When they changed jobs, the coverage would go with them. Employers still would need to train replacement workers to fill in during absences, but Bonham’s bill exempted small businesses with fewer than 25 workers from holding a job open for employees on extended family leave.

About 40 percent of employers already provide paid leave for workers through the private insurance market, often negotiated with unions in collective bargaining contracts. HB 3031 provided no protection for those employers who would also have to pay into another paid family leave fund, but Bonham’s proposal allowed for employers offering a more generous paid leave plan to continue with existing plans until contracts expired.

However, both bills died April 9, midway through the session, yet one remains.

House Bill 2005 provides up to 26 weeks of paid family leave, creates an insurance program using employer and employee contributions, and offers a grant program to help employers with fewer than 25 employees. It protects workers’ jobs while they’re on leave if they’ve been on the job at least 90 days. Most of the law would take effect Jan. 1, 2021, while the rules governing self-employed people and tribal workers would take effect Jan. 1, 2022.

Bonham serves on the Paid Family Leave and Medical Leave Work Group.