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N.H. Lawmakers to Consider Paid Family Leave in 2017

Hannah McCarthy/NHPR

The United States is one of few countries in the world that doesn't guarantee paid family leave for workers. Four states have voted to adopt their own family leave policies in recent years, and Representative Mary Gile of Concord has been working to put New Hampshire on that list.

Gile has been working toward paid leave legislation for sixteen years in the New Hampshire State House. And 2017 will be no different. She has, once again, filed a bill mandating paid family and medical leave insurance for employees. Gile says this kind of legislation is long overdue in the U.S.. 

"Major national business associations all push back," Gile says, "because they feel it's going to ruin business. But it hasn't. It hasn't in the states that have paid family leave, and it certainly hasn't in the countries that already have paid family leave."

While similar proposals have failed in the New Hampshire legislature in recent years - mostly along partisan lines - Gile feels that this session is ripe for a yea vote.

"I do feel that this is the moment," Gile explained. "I think that there's some wonderful results coming out of business. They are saying that they're able to retain their employees. Their moral is better."

The program would be entirely employee funded, much like temporary disability insurance. A suggested model for the program involves employees contributing five dollars per week from their paycheck. A 2016 Carsey School study, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau, found that most New Hampshire residents support paid family leave and are willing to pay into a program. 

Governor Elect Chris Sununu has said he will support a paid family and medical leave bill. So, for Gile, given the often partisan track record of this issue, the question is whether she can persuade the Republican majority that 2017 is, finally, the year for her bill.

Hannah McCarthy first came to NHPR an intern in 2015, returned as a Fellow the following year and then bounced around as a reporter and producer before landing as co-host of Civics 101. She has reported on everything from the opioid epidemic to State House politics to haunted woods of New Hampshire.
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