NEW MEXICO (KRQE) — A plan to help New Mexico workers take weeks off work for family or medical reasons without taking a hit in wages is causing controversy. One group’s proposal aims to guarantee paid sick leave.
The Task Force on Paid Family and Sick Leave shared its recommendations with lawmakers Monday morning. The state currently requires employers to offer paid sick leave. However, this proposal would cover long-term absences of up to 12 weeks.
“Right now, New Mexico employees are not entitled to extended time off to care for sick family members or to welcome a new child into their families. This policy would make that possible,” said House Representative Linda Serrato.
Some other reasons for a leave of absence would be loss of a child, assault, domestic violence and stalking. The task force recommends that workers pay 0.5% of their salary and their bosses contribute 0.4%. A worker would then be paid their weekly wages or a percentage of it depending on how much they earn while on furlough. This means that a minimum wage worker would pay about $120 each year, while their employer would pay about $95 for that one worker.
Serrato mentioned that there are some exceptions. The task force recommended exempting contractors with five employees or fewer. This would mean that 65% of companies in the country would not have to pay into the trust fund. Workers would still be entitled to paid leave.
The task force is made up of representatives from interest groups, trade unions, chambers of commerce and entrepreneurs. Some members said a healthier workforce would benefit workers and business owners.
Other task force members said companies would struggle with the costs. “The challenge is how do you do it? how do you pay it That’s where there is [sic] some disagreements about the task force,” said Rob Black, president of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce.
According to a survey the task force presented to entrepreneurs, most companies did not support it. The task force believes the annual payments would fully cover the plan’s costs, which they said would be $440 million a year.
Lawmakers behind the proposal said they are working to draft legislation based on their report. If passed, the first applications could be processed in 2026. To qualify, workers would need to be at their workplace for six months.