North Dakota is among the majority of states without mandatory paid family leave

Published: May. 6, 2020 at 6:14 PM CDT
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The North Dakota Women's Network says the pandemic is highlighting the importance of protecting workers who need to stay home.

But only 12 states around the country have paid family leave policies, and North Dakota isn't one of them.

The Executive Director of the Women's Network Kristie Wolff outlines how paid family leave is different than normal sick leave. Paid family leave policy would cover employees who need to miss work to care for a sick loved one, to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child, or for a serious health condition, including pregnancy.

Wolff is teaming up with the president of ND AFL-CIO to push for Paid Family Leave policy initiatives. They say they've experienced the need first-hand.

"After I had my first son, I was lucky enough to be able to take four weeks off, however, much of that was unpaid. I then often ended up working evenings or weekends to make up the time," said Wolff.

"My wife was a lung cancer survivor, so there was a lot of times that I burned my vacation to get away from work to help her," said ND AFL-CIO President Landis Larson.

In order to include all businesses, Larson says the leave could be paid partly through the businesses themselves and partly through state funding.

"I think it would be a big advantage for the small employers, myself. Because I know they're probably the ones that are closest to their employees. And they understand what their employees are going through, and they want to be able to do it, but very seldom can they actually afford it," said Larson.

Ultimately lawmakers would decide where the funding comes from, but last year the bill failed in the House.

The measure would've mandated businesses offer paid leave.

"The state derives its money from the taxpayers. So I think it's a false premise to think that if we can just use state money then we're not being a burden on the people," said Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck.

With the pandemic already straining businesses, Becker said they should be able to make the decision on the type of leave they can afford.

Wolff said the initiative is still in the beginning stages.