GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Maria Keenan is a small business owner whose daughter recently had a child. “She had her child through a c-section which means she was out of work for at least 6 weeks,” says Keenan. She believes someone in her daughter’s position could benefit from paid family leave.
“There’s a lot of people out there that have children and they cannot afford to have daycare,” says Keean. If passed, prop 118 would create a paid family leave insurance program in Colorado.
Employees would be able to take up to 12 weeks of leave to care for their own serious health condition or a family member who is sick. They could also take leave if they or their family member is on active duty military service, or when they or their family member is a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. Under Prop 118, employees who take leave would be able to return to the same position or a position with the same pay. Paid leave benefits would be available after an employee has earned $2,500 at their job. Job protections would be available for employees who have worked at least 180 days.
“Most workers would receive between 65 and 90 percent of their wages during the leave, with low-wage workers making the highest percentage of their paycheck,” explains Carmen Medrano, the Executive Director of United For A New Economy.
Both employers and employees would pay a payroll premium totaling less than one percent of the employee’s income. Small businesses with 10 employees or less wouldn’t have to pay their portion, but their employees would still benefit. If passed, the average Colorado worker making $44k a year, and his or her employer, would both pay $3.83 a week.
But one opponent says it isn’t the price tag that concerns her. One concern she has is that both employers and employees don’t have the choice to opt out.
“The cost to employers is not the financial cost. That is not an unsustainable burden to employers,” says Nina Anderson, the owner of a small business called Express Employment. “Even I as a small business would not find that unaffordable,” says Anderson.
She believes the bill doesn’t leave enough provisions for employers. “I could have somebody start tomorrow and then next week tell me they’re going to be out of the office for 12 weeks,” says Anderson. “To have someone out for 12 weeks following very little contribution to the organization, without being able to replace that person, is really an un-do hardship for small businesses.”
Come November 3rd, Coloradans will decide if all workers deserve paid family leave and if they’re required to help fund it.
“I’m not against paid leave, what I’m against is the current proposal,” says Anderson. “It is unaffordable, it is unsustainable, the funding that comes from every person’s paycheck that works, I think, is immoral.”