Legislators consider bill to fund paid family/medical leave

By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – Montana lawmakers heard testimony on a bill Thursday that would create a fund to give workers paid family or medical leave from their job.

Rep. Jenny Eck, D-Helena, is carrying House Bill 392, or the Montana Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act.

Rep. Jenny Eck, D-Helena

Jemma Hazen testified in favor of the bill in front of the House Business and Labor Committee. She said she could have benefitted from paid time off when her son was born.

“Like many other new parents, I was forced to make the difficult choice between my personal health, the health of my son, and the satisfaction and the stability of my career,” Hazen said.

The fund would be made up of contributions split equally between the employee and employer. Or, the employer could opt to pay the entire amount. The combined amount would be no more than one percent of the employee’s monthly wages.

To receive the benefits, a worker must either have a serious health condition, or be caring for either a new child or family member with a serious health condition. It also applies if you’re caring for a covered servicemember who lists you as next of kin.

Rep. Jeremy Trebas, R-Great Falls, said he thinks the intentions of the bill are good, but with deductions like Social Security and Medicare already taken out of workers’ pay, “it’s just one more thing that we’re forcing employees to have taken out of their paychecks.”

No one testified in opposition to HB 392 at the hearing.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.