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Paid leave bill clears Delaware Senate in party-line vote | Health/Fitness

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DOVER, Del. (AP) — The Democrat-led state Senate voted along party lines Tuesday to approve legislation forcing private-sector businesses in Delaware to provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

The bill requires businesses employing 25 or more workers to provide up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave per year, and a combined total of up to six weeks of paid family caregiving leave, medical leave or military leave every two years. The combined total of paid leave in any given year could not exceed 12 weeks.

Businesses with 10 to 24 workers would be required to provide only paid parental leave, while those with fewer than 10 employees would be exempt from the law.

Businesses that already offer comparable benefits would be able to opt out of the state-run insurance program.

The program would be funded by a payroll tax split evenly between employers and employees, starting on Jan. 1, 2025. The combined tax would be 0.8% for 2025 and 2026. The state Department of Labor would establish the tax rate for succeeding years based on “sound actuarial principles,” but benefit payments would be cut to ensure the rate does not exceed 1%.

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Benefit payments would start no later than Jan. 1, 2026.

The weekly benefit would be 80% of a covered worker’s average weekly wage during the preceding 12 months, with a minimum benefit of $100 week. Workers making less than $100 a week would receive a benefit equal to their full wage.

To be eligible for paid leave, a person must have been employed by the business for at least 12 months and must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months, which amounts to an average of 26 hours per week.

The legislation passed Tuesday is the third iteration of a bill. It was initially introduced in May of last year but has been modified to address the concerns of the business community and to conform more broadly with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The changes include exempting smaller employers in whole or in part, strengthening eligibility requirements for employees, reducing the maximum amount of annual paid leave, and delaying implementation of the program.

The legislation, which is supported by Democratic Gov. John Carney and is similar to programs already passed in nine other states and the District of Columbia, now goes to the House.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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