If a bill introduced by state Rep. Karla Rose Hanson (D-Fargo) passes, an employer in North Dakota with 50 or more employees would be required to participate in a “family medical leave” program which would give employees 66 percent of their pay (capped at $4,000 per month) for up to twelve weeks.
The bill is HB1509, and you can read it in full below.
Employers with fewer than 50 employees can choose to participate in the program if they wish.
Participating employers would have to maintain the employee’s benefits, and allow them to return to their same position (or one equivalent to it) upon the end of the leave. Employees would have to have been with their employer for at least a year to qualify for the leave.
This program would be operated out of the state-owned worker’s compensation insurance company. Workforce Safety & Insurance would get a $5 million appropriation from the Legislature to start this program. On-going revenues would come from a tax on employee pay in the amount of ” two cents for every ten dollars of wages.”
By my math, an employee earning $50,000 per year would represent a $100 tax paid into this fund.
The problem with this sort of policy, as it is with all relationships between employers and employees, is that there’s a balancing act. The employer/employee relationship is a negotiated one. Employers have to offer a compensation package that attracts qualified applicants. Employees, meanwhile, are free to leave their current employers in pursuit a better situation.
These relationships should be flexible, allowing both employers and employees to find the right balance. When the state steps in to mandate benefits, such as family leave, that creates less room for flexibility.
The goal of this policy is noble – I’m a parent, I get it – but this really isn’t an area the government should be straying into.