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Health Families Act sparks debate

published in The Journal Record | August 26, 2009

Kathy Neal, labor and employment attorney with McAfee & Taft, was interviewed for a Journal Record feature about the proposed Health Families Act (HFA) that has been reintroduced in Congress.

If passed, the HFA would require companies who employ 15 or more people to provide their employees with seven days of paid sick leave per year.  Advocates of the act argue it would not only result in a net savings to the national economy of $8.2 billion a year, but would provide a safety-net for lower-paid workers who are one car repair or sick child away from losing their job.  However, critics disagree estimating the measure could actually cost some employers between $800 and $1,000 per employee per year.

Neal told The Journal Record that smaller companies are more likely to feel the effects of the proposed HFA.  “That employer is the kind of business that may not have any kind of paid-leave policy,” Neal said.  Businesses with less than 50 employees that do not have to comply with the Family Medical Leave Act may be faced with a steep learning curve, and the remedies for violations under the HFA are, from a legal standpoint according to Neal, most concerning.

According to Neal, the HFA is on its third trip through Congress and versions have been filed in both houses.