ERIC Testimony Regarding Nebraska Legislative Bill 844 Before the Nebraska Legislature Business and Labor Committee
The ERISA Industry Committee (“ERIC”) appreciates the opportunity to submit written testimony for Legislative Bill 844 (“LB844”), which would adopt the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, to the Nebraska Legislature’s Business and Labor Committee (“Committee”). ERIC is the only national association that advocates exclusively for large employers on health, retirement, and compensation public policies at the federal, state, and local levels. ERIC speaks in one voice for our members who already meet or exceed the requirements provided for under LB 844.
ERIC recognizes the importance of providing paid sick leave to employees and the state’s desire to ensure the care and well-being of its workers and their family members. We support increasing access to paid sick leave, but believe it should be accomplished in a manner that does not hinder employers who are already providing quality paid leave policies. Large employers, including ERIC’s members, have been providing generous paid sick leave policies to thousands of workers across the country for years. From state to state, large employers attempt to provide uniform employee benefits but are hindered by the growing patchwork of paid sick leave laws.
ERIC seeks to enhance our members’ ability to provide consistent, uniform paid leave policies by advocating in favor of laws that enable employers to retain flexibility in designing their policies. Our comments are provided in greater detail below.
LB 844 states that “[p]aid sick and safe time shall be carried over to subsequent calendar years,” without exception. It is understandable that the state wants workers to have access to the leave they have accrued, but there is a better alternative than forced carryover. When large employers are forced to carryover an employee’s unused leave, it has the potential to impact the total leave package the employer currently provides. Paid sick leave is traditionally contemplated alongside and is meant to dovetail short and long- term disability plans; thus, a change in one is a change in all three. The better alternative is the frontloading of leave.
When employers frontload leave, i.e., providing leave all at once at the beginning of the year, it creates a use-it-or-lose-it policy. This type of policy allows employees to use time on an as-needed basis rather than waiting for it to accrue over the course of a year, and imposes no administrative burden on employers with having to calculate each employee’s carryover leave amount. Most states have recognized this benefit and have adopted paid sick leave laws that permit employers to utilize this “use-it-or-lose-it” policy. These jurisdictions have recognized that allowing for frontloading without mandating carryover still provides employees with adequate amounts of leave. There is no difference in the hours available to employees when leave is frontloaded versus accrued, it is simply available earlier.
- Existing Paid Leave/Paid Time Off Policies
We would suggest amending the language to make it clearer about how existing policies are affected, since most large employers already provide generous paid leave policies to their employees. For instance, the provision could read: “The Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act does not require an employer to modify an existing paid sick leave or equivalent paid time off policy if the policy permits an employee to accrue or receive no less than forty hours of paid sick leave to be used for the purposes under Section 4 of this Act.”
- Family Member
ERIC supports LB 844’s definition of family member because it is consistent with the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) (i.e., child, spouse, parent). As federal law, the FMLA establishes baseline uniformity across the states that large employers can and have been abiding by for decades.
- Hourly Increments
LB 844 states that paid sick leave may be used “in the smaller of hourly increments or the smallest increment that the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or use of other time.” Establishing this option is greatly beneficial to large employers. For most large employers, it takes on average four months to code new laws into their payroll system. This can be further complicated by those employers that utilize more than one system. Giving employers the option to use hourly increments of time will cut down on the time it takes to code these systems. Currently, most large employers require employees to use paid sick leave in four-hour increments at a minimum (i.e., half a work day). By allowing them to choose between one hour increments and the smallest increment used (which can be as low as fifteen minutes), the administrative changes are not as drastic and are therefore less burdensome.
- Waiting Period
LB 844 provides that employees can begin using the paid sick leave they have accrued since the start of their employment after their sixtieth day of employment. If possible, the Committee should consider increasing the number of days to ninety. This would bring Nebraska in line with the other states that have paid sick leave laws, thereby decreasing the patchwork effect. The eight states, and the District of Columbia, that have paid sick leave laws have a waiting period of at least 90 days. Increasing the waiting period from sixty to ninety days would bring Nebraska in line with the rest of the country, ensure the greatest level of uniformity for employers that operate across the country, and lessen any administrative burdens on employers.
If you have any questions concerning our testimony, or if we can be of further assistance, please contact Bryan Hum at (202) 789-1400 or bhum@ERIC.org.
Associate for Retirement & Compensation Policy