Del. Family Leave Bill Gets Final Approval In General Assembly

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The House of Representatives and the Delaware State Senate gave final approval Thursday to legislation that would provide eligible full-time workers with up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave a year and up to six weeks of paid family caregiving, medical or military leave every two years.

The measure, SS2 for SB1, has been called The Healthy Delaware Families Act.

Workers who need extended time off due to a major family or medical event would be able to earn up to 80% of their average weekly wages through the state insurance program that would be created under the bill.

“Delaware set the example by becoming one of the first states to establish paid parental leave for state employees and teachers. Now, Delaware has done the right thing for thousands of private workers and ensured they have access to paid family and medical leave,” the bill’s lead House Sponsor, Representative Debra Heffernan, D-Bellefonte said. “Workers who have access to paid leave are happier, healthier, more productive and more likely to remain at their jobs. Our parental leave program has been an undeniable success, improving the health and wellbeing of families while boosting state employee recruitment and retention. I’m grateful to my colleagues – especially Sen. Sarah McBride for her leadership – and all the advocates who pushed for this to become a reality.”

“I want to thank my colleagues in the House for voting today to make sure thousands of working families in Delaware never again are forced to choose between earning a paycheck and welcoming a newborn or providing care to a family member fighting for their life,” Senator Sarah McBride, D-Claymont, Wilmington area said shortly before Senate passage. “The amendment added to Senate Bill 1 in the House is a result of the same thoughtful discussion and negotiation that has occurred throughout our state since Rep. Debra Heffernan and I first brought this landmark legislation forward almost one year ago. I look forward to quickly passing the amended version in the Senate and getting this critical employment benefit to Governor John Carney for his signature.” 

After the Senate vote, McBride stated:

“This is a historic day for Delaware and a watershed moment for working families throughout the First State. Thousands of families throughout our state are now one signature away from having the security and peace of mind that comes from knowing they will be able to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads even as they face some of the most common challenges that we all face as human beings. This major step forward would not have been possible without the hard work and persistence of advocates, business leaders willing to come to the table, statewide leaders and a bi-partisan coalition of legislators, and the overwhelming support of Delawareans.” 

According to the legislation:

The bill would create a family and medical trust fund in Delaware modeled after similar programs already passed in nine other states and the District of Columbia. The program would be funded through payroll contributions, totaling less than 1% of an employee’s weekly pay and split evenly between a worker and their employer.

Businesses with fewer than 25 workers would not be required to participate in the medical and family caregiving component of the program, and businesses with fewer than 10 workers would not be required to participate in parental leave, but they may opt-in. Businesses with comparable benefits would be able to opt-out of the program in whole or in part.

The Delaware Cares Coalition became a group of more than 50 health, labor, faith, business and community representatives that worked to get the paid leave measure passed.

“The Healthy Delaware Families Act is a once-in-a-generation achievement that will uplift the lives of Delaware families for years to come. ” Delaware Cares Coalition for Paid Leave Director Liz Richards said. “Hundreds of thousands of Delawareans without paid leave who have been forced to make impossible choices between their job and their family can know that help is on the way. Today’s vote is a decisive victory that will strengthen Delaware and make our families and our economy more resilient to the challenges of a changing world.”

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