Paid Family and Medical Leave in New Hampshire
Life events such as an illness, the birth of a child, or a parent’s need for care require workers to take extended time away from their jobs. The aging of the New Hampshire population and the rise of women in the labor force mean that more workers in the state are likely to need extended time away from work to provide family care. But taking the leave often means loss of pay or even loss of a job.
Access to paid family and medical leave is uneven in New Hampshire. Neither the federal government nor New Hampshire have a paid family and medical leave law or program, thus access to leave depends on whether it is included as a benefit offered by one’s employer. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows certain workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid—but job-protected—leave to tend to a serious health condition or to care for a new child or a seriously ill relative within a 12-month period. To be eligible for FMLA, employees must work for an employer with 50 or more workers within a 75-mile radius and have worked 1,250 hours for the same employer over the previous year.1 Nationally, about 41 percent of employees are not covered by FMLA.
In New Hampshire, 10 percent of firms employing fewer than 10 employees provided paid family care leave in 2011; among businesses employing 250 or more employees, 30 percent provided paid family care leave.2 Many men face stigma for taking leave, as cultural and workplace attitudes typically view men as breadwinners and women as caregivers.3 Indeed, in New Hampshire, women are more likely to take family and medical leave (paid or unpaid), yet they are less likely to have access to the benefit, according to 2016 Granite State Poll data. Furthermore, workers with the lowest family income lack access to paid leave. The current system, reliant on employer-provided paid leave and unpaid FMLA, is fragmented and unequal, with some workers having access to generous paid leave benefits and others either cobbling together paid and unpaid leave, leaving the labor force, or not providing the needed family care.