Attleboro area businesses want family and medical leave law delayed

Several business groups, including the local Chamber of Commerce, are calling for a threemonth delay in the implementation of a new family and medical leave law.

The state law was passed last year and fees to pay for a trust fund for it will start being charged July 1, although benefits would not start until 2021.

The law provides workers with up to 12 weeks of family leave to care for a relative and 20 weeks of medical leave if they are sick. Benefits are capped at $850 per week.

The measure guarantees employees will still have their job when they return to work.

It is paid for with a charge to companies of .63 percent of their payroll, but companies can pass some of the costs on to employees through a paycheck deduction.

Companies may charge employees 40 percent of the cost of the medical leave assessment and 100 percent of the family leave, according to Chris Geehern, executive vice president at Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

He said he suspects most workers do not realize they will soon have money deducted from their paychecks to pay for the law, which is one of the problems he sees with implementing it.

Companies can opt out of the law if they find private insurance that will pay the same benefits, but there are no insurance policies for family leave available, Geehern said.

Business groups such as AIM are calling on the Legislature to approve a delay so they have more time to get organized and workers have more time to learn about the law.

Jack Lank, president of the United Regional Chamber of Commerce, said there is a lot of confusion about the law even though it is just a month away from going into effect.

He also said workers might not know money can be deducted from their pay, and that business payroll departments need time to get the software to handle the deductions.

“After speaking to many of our member companies, they feel additional, easy-to-understand information is needed to be disseminated to the average employee,” Lank said.

Some area lawmakers have already committed to supporting the delay, including state Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk.

“The main reason is it has proven to be much more complicated and the infrastructure isn’t in place yet,” he said. “We want this rollout to work, not to punish or hamstring companies who are trying to do the right thing.

“From experts I have spoken to, they feel that this three months will be enough to make sure when it does go live there won’t be any issues.”

State Rep. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro, said he has received letters from businesses asking for the delay and he is inclined to support it, but he needs more information.

“My gut tells me to support it,” he said.

He said there seems to be some confusion over how the law would impact subcontractors and it needs to be clarified.

Read the original article here.

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