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Kelly introduces paid family leave legislation

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri may soon join five other states in offering paid family leave.

In a virtual press conference and webinar, Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, announced the Missouri Earned Family and Medical Leave Act, which would establish up to eight weeks paid leave per 12 month period for eligible employees.

“This is the sustainable answer,” Kelly said. “Strong families create a strong workforce.”

Under the bill, employees would contribute 0.25 percent of their weekly pay beginning in 2020 and would be able to receive 67 percent wage replacement leave in 2021.

For the average Missourian making $46,000 yearly, that would pencil out to an employee contributing $113 yearly, or $2.17 weekly, according to Women’s Foundation statistics.

“I spend more than that on coffee a week,” Kelly said.

The leave would enable employees to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill family member, care for their own serious illness, or to “assume any familial responsibility because a [family member] is on or called to active duty.”

Five states — California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York and Washington — have passed laws that are similar in effect. Most of the Women’s Foundation’s research is based on California’s statistics, as their law has been in effect the longest, since 2004.  

Emily Johnson, Associate Director of the Institute of Public Policy at the University of Missouri, cited that paid family leave “lowers employee turnover, increases retention, and has a positive or no negative effect on productivity, turnover, profitability and employee morale.”

In 2016, only 14 percent of civilian employees had access to a paid family leave plan, with 93 percent of fathers and 71 percent of mothers employed. The United States is the only industrialized country lacking a nation-wide earned paid family and medical leave program.

HB 1974 is a “common sense” bill, according to Wendy Doyle, President and CEO of Women’s Foundation.