Advocacy groups call for more paid leave for Georgia workers

A little more than a week after Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law granting three weeks of paid parental leave to state employees and public school teachers, advocates called for state leaders to expand it.

"This is an important first step in the right direction towards supporting working families in Georgia," said Allison Glass with 9to5 Georgia. "Paid leave is important to everyone regardless of political affiliation and we are glad to have supported this bipartisan effort. However, we know that working Georgians need and deserve more. Three weeks is not enough time and the vast majority of Georgians are still without any paid family or medical leave whatsoever."

Glass' group is part of the GA Paid Leave Coalition, which hopes to raise awareness of the issue and work with state lawmakers to offer at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to all Georgia workers.

"Paid leave means that you can care for your kids when schools are closed, you can drive your parent to their next doctor's appointment and you have time to recover after being sick without worrying about losing your job," Glass explained.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 18% of workers in the South have access to paid family leave. 

Nine states and the District of Columbia already have paid family leave laws on the books, but some fear a change to Georgia law could hurt small businesses.

"While well-intended, forcing small businesses into a one-size-fits-all mandate could make it even harder for them to find innovative ways to accommodate their employees. Every small business is different, but all of them are competing to find workers right now,' said Nathan Humphrey, state director of NFIB in Georgia.

"According to NFIB's latest Small Business Economic Trends survey, 44% of small business owners nationwide have openings they can't fill because not enough people are applying. Unlike larger employers, small business owners usually know the name of all their employees and even their employees' families. Incentives work better than mandates, and we firmly believe that business owners will find creative innovative ways to take care of their employees during these challenging times."

Rachel Shanklin with Small Business Majority said Georgia could adopt a model similar to other states where employees and possibly employers pay into a state-administered program.

"A state-administered paid leave insurance program will help to make small businesses more competitive by ensuring that all workers can receive paid family leave regardless of the size of the company in which they work," said Shanklin. 

The GA Paid Leave Coalition said they are working with several state lawmakers to draft legislation ahead of the next session.

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