JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Women’s Foundation today celebrated the introduction of the Missouri Earned Family and Medical Leave Act (House Bill 1974) and released new research detailing the benefits of paid family leave (PFL).
The research, commissioned in partnership with the University of Missouri Institute of Public Policy, found that PFL programs prevent families from falling into poverty, reduce reliance on public assistance, raise retention of talented employees, and increase worker productivity as well as employers’ stock prices.
“Our research has shown that paid family leave has real and far-reaching benefits for families and businesses,” said Wendy Doyle, Women’s Foundation President & CEO. “Allowing Missourians to care for children and loved-ones without sacrificing their income is a win-win – strengthening families, strengthening businesses, and growing the economy. We commend Representatives Hannah Kelly for introducing this family-friendly legislation and urge the General Assembly to a paid family and medical leave bill without delay.”
The bill, introduced by state Representative Hannah Kelly, proposes a statewide ballot initiative to make Missouri the sixth state nationwide, after California, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington, to pass PFL legislation. If approved by Missouri voters, it would grant eligible employees up to 8 weeks of leave per 12 month period to bond with a new child, to care for a seriously ill family member, to care for their own serious illness, or to “assume any familial responsibility because a [family member] is on or called to active duty.” Employees would contribute 0.25% of their weekly pay beginning in 2020 and would be able to receive the 67% wage replacement leave in 2021.
The Women’s Foundation also voiced support for the two other paid family leave bills that have been introduced: Senate Bill 607, sponsored by Senator Jill Schupp, and House Bill 1956, sponsored by Representative Tracy McCreery.
In addition to detailing the benefits of paid family leave, Women’s Foundation research provided an analysis of estimated paid leave payouts, based on the experiences of other states. Statistical inferences based on paid leave programs in New Jersey and California applied to Missouri demographics indicate lower potential payouts than previous estimates.
“These other states have demonstrated that strong families and strong businesses go hand-in-hand,” said Rep. Hannah Kelly. “The evidence is overwhelming that paid leave programs benefit everyone – helping children and families thrive, while giving businesses a stronger and more productive workforce. Given the example set by Governor Greitens and Speaker Richardson for their state employees, I’m confident that legislators on both sides of the aisle will join us in working to establish an earned family and medical leave program that works for all Missourians.”
Women’s Foundation has been working to educate public officials on the importance of paid family and medical leave and encouraging them to extend the benefit to their employees. As a result, five out of six statewide executive branch officials in Missouri, along with the House of Representatives and four independent executive agencies have now adopted paid parental leave policies for their state employees.
In March Gov. Eric Greitens signed an executive order granting paid parental leave to employees in the governor's office or in agencies controlled by his appointees. Since then, four other statewide elected officials and the House of Representatives have followed suit. As a result, employees of nearly every state agency are now able to take paid time off following the birth or adoption of a child.
Current public opinion strongly supports some sort of paid family and medical leave program, with 80% of the public favoring paid leave for maternal leave and serious medical conditions and 60-70% favoring paternal bonding leave and leave to care for seriously ill family members. About 35% of the country believes expanding paid leave should be a top government priority.
A copy of the research brief is available here.
Women’s Foundation promotes equity and opportunity for women of all ages, using research, philanthropy and policy solutions to make meaningful change. More information about the organization can be found at www.Womens-Foundation.org.
Watch the virtual press conference here.