Small-business owners have an especially hard time dealing with the disruption that comes with unscheduled and unplanned medical-leave issues, Milito said. They might have to pay overtime costs to other employees who fill in for absent co-workers, and the situation can cause morale problems, she said.
Most small-business owners already provide a great amount of flexibility in allowing their employees to take time off for family or medical purposes, Milito said. Government mandates take away small employers and employees freedom to negotiate leave and benefits packages that best meet their mutual needs.
The original legislation met similar resistance 20 years ago, said Shabo, of The National Partnership for Women & Family.
Similar to today, there was opposition from these organized business groups that said the sky would fall if we had unpaid leave and here we are 20 years later and the sky is still there, and even a bit higher, Shabo said.
Although any national legislation very likely faces an uphill battle in Congress, paid family-leave insurance programs already have been adopted at the state level, in California and New Jersey.
In Washington state, a bill that would have provided partially paid leave for up to five weeks passed in 2007, but then the economy tanked, delaying implementation until 2015. The Legislature is debating whether to repeal the law, as some lawmakers have proposed, or expand it.
A bill introduced by Washington state Sen. Karen Keiser, a Democrat, would grant workers two-thirds of their pay for up to 12 weeks of leave to care for babies, newly adopted children or sick family members and up to 12 weeks for their own serious health conditions. Employers and workers would split the cost of the premium, calculated at 0.1 percent of pay, or about $1 a week for an income of $50,000. A similar bill pending in the states House of Representatives was the subject of a hearing Tuesday before the Labor & Workforce Development Committee.
Auto shop owner Don Orange drove from Vancouver, Wash., to the capital, Olympia, on Tuesday to testify at the hearing in support of a paid family-leave insurance program.
His company, Hoesly Eco Auto & Tire, has four employees who all have families that need attention, said Orange, the chairman of Main Street Alliance of Washington, a liberal coalition of small-business owners.
Small business is an integral part of society, and we need to help people take care of their families, Orange said. This is an opportunity for us. Its not going to break our backs - a nickel here or a nickel there - but its absolutely the right thing to do.
His contribution to the premium would cost far less than his companys $60 laundry bill each week, he said.
Its an expense to doing business, kind of like turning on the light, Orange said. I look at it as an investment in the community.