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Colorado could soon require paid family leave

University of Denver study looks at costs
Posted at 8:03 AM, Mar 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-01 10:38:06-05

Next week Colorado democratic lawmakers will once again attempt to create a mandated paid family leave program. The bill comes on the heels of a new study from the University of Denver looking into the costs and benefits to workers and employers.

"We based our estimates on how many people might actually take leave, looking at the experience of other states including New Jersey and Rhode island as well as California, where they have had a leave plan in place for a few years," said lead study author Jennifer Greenfield.

Currently, fewer than half of Coloradans have access to paid family leave, and the majority only for maternity or paternity leave.

The bill that will be introduced in Colorado would require paid leave to be offered to workers who need to care for a new child, a sick family member, or even to care for themselves if they get sick.

In addition, a new category called "safe time" would be offered for victims of domestic violence.

"This would cover time off for going to court, time off for finding a new apartment, time off when you don't feel safe going to work because you're scared your violent partner is going to show up at your workplace," said State Senator Faith Winter, who will introduce the senate version of the bill.

The University of Denver study estimated just over 131,000 workers would take paid leave in a given year. The average length of leave would be nine weeks, although workers could take up to 12 weeks. The average benefit collected would be $670 per week. That amount would vary based on salary.

The amount workers pay into the program would also vary by salary, with the average worker paying $4 per week into the state program.

Meanwhile, companies would pick up the larger share of the cost, paying about 0.34 percent of their total payroll into the program.

Advocates see that as a relatively small amount to provide workers more security.

"What we see (in other states) is employers actually find it doesn’t have negative impacts on their businesses, that it has increased worker retention, it’s reduced their turnover costs, it has increased worker morale and as a result has increased worker productivity," Greenfield said.

Currently only six states and Washington, D.C. require companies to offer paid family leave: California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York Rhode Island, and Washington.