Two new polls suggest there is strong support, across party lines, for Connecticut to adopt a paid family medical leave law.
The polls were conducted by AARP Research and Connecticut Working Families.
The AARP poll listed a sample of 1,000 state voters aged 25 years and older.
The results, AARP said, show that 83 percent “support” and 65 percent “strongly support” giving employees an opportunity to contribute to and utilize a limited amount of paid leave from work to care for themselves or a loved one who is recovering from a serious medical condition.
The AARP also said its poll found that family leave legislation was supported by 93 percent of Democratic respondents, 66 percent of Republicans, and 80 percent of unaffiliated voters.
The Connecticut Working Families poll said it randomly sampled 400 likely voters from across Connecticut and included people from across the political spectrum.
Their poll found that 75 percent of voters want the legislature to create a paid family and medical leave program, including 53 percent of Republican voters.
When asked about expanding Connecticut’s paid sick days standard, 73 percent of voters in the Working Families poll said they wanted to expand the standard to include more workers who are currently left out because of the size of their company.
The state legislature is considering a bill on family medical leave.
“Connecticut voters overwhelmingly support paid family leave for workers,” AARP Connecticut State Director Nora Duncan said. “We urge lawmakers to give serious consideration to passage of SB 221 in the remaining weeks of the 2016 legislative session. Voters are clearly interested in this policy and will make it a part of their considerations at the ballot box this fall.”
SB 221 would create a statewide system of paid family and medical leave for workers needing time off to care for themselves, a sick loved one or a new baby. The system that’s being suggested, proponents say, would be fully funded by employees with no employer contribution.
Of the Connecticut Working Families poll, Executive Director Lindsay Farrell said: “The takeaway from this poll is simple: voters want our governor and legislature to address a variety of economic and workplace issues, and they expect our elected officials to take action to make Connecticut’s economy fairer for more families.”
Farrell continued: “Our elected leaders should take note of this data as they grapple with these issues before session ends next month.”
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that creating a paid Family and Medical Leave insurance system in Connecticut would cost $13 million to start, and $462 million annually once it’s fully funded.
That’s $440 million in benefits to pay out to users of the system and $22 million in administrative costs.
However, proponents say the numbers shouldn’t scare lawmakers because the proposal is largely budget neutral.
“First year contributions will also offset initial staff hiring, although some budgeting from general funds may be necessary,” the report found. “Connecticut could also phase in the premium collection to self-fund the program start-up costs before beginning to pay FMLI benefits.”
The report found that if Connecticut collects 0.54 percent of pay from every employee in Connecticut — which works out to about $322 a year for private sector workers — then it would generate about $430 million annually to fund the costs of providing Family and Medical Leave Insurance and administration of the program.
The report warns against excluding low-wage earners, who may not be able to take leave if they’re not able to access 100 percent of their pay while on leave.
The report also suggests that in order to be eligible a worker will have had to work 920 hours in the year before they make the claim.
Currently, nearly three out of four employees who take leave are at least partly paid by employers under existing policies, including paid sick time, vacation, and other forms of paid time off. An estimated 287,962 Connecticut workers annually take leave now.
The optimal amount of leave would be 12 weeks, according to the report, which corresponds to the amount of time employees can currently take in unpaid leave. The average amount of leave in California and Rhode Island, which have their own paid leave policies, is around 4 weeks.
In addition to asking respondents in its poll how they felt about family medical, the AARP poll, it claimed, also found that there would be support for candidates who worked to implement a paid family leave plan.
The poll results, AARP said, showed that 74 percent would “support” and 50 percent would “strongly support” those candidates who work to pass family medical leave legislation.
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association has said they are not opposed to businesses providing paid family and medical leave, but don’t believe the state should mandate it. The National Federation of Independent Business says that most small businesses already offer paid time off and mandating it will only hurt small businesses.
Andrew Markowski, head of NFIB’s Connecticut chapter, said their research found that 73 percent of all small firms already offer paid time off to their full-time workers. Among them, 67 percent offer two weeks or more. It also found that small employers are not regimented in their classifications of paid time off and allow employees days off without forcing them to differentiate the absence between illness or holiday.
“The legislative proposal currently being considered is an unnecessary, one-size-fits-all approach that will harm even the smallest of businesses, including those that already offer generous and flexible leave benefits,” Markowski said.