[caption id="attachment_221117" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Only two hospital systems in Delaware publicly back SB 1, while the remaining four systems have remained quiet. | PHOTO COURTESY OF ONLINE MARKETING/UNSPLASH[/caption]
DOVER — ChristianaCare and Nemours Children’s Health have endorsed Senate Bill 1, becoming the only two health care systems in the state to make their stance clear on the proposed state-run paid family and medical leave.Both health care systems, which are based in northern Delaware but have multiple operations throughout the state and outside of it, already offer their own version of paid family leave. ChristianaCare, the largest hospital system and largest private employer in the state, has offered at least 12 weeks of paid parental leave since 2020. Nemours offers six weeks of paid parental leave.ChristianaCare Senior Vice President of Human Resources Christopher Cowan said that SB1 helps achieve the goal of healthy families in Delaware, pointing to the research in maternal and child health, especially those who are in underserved communities.“The research is clear: paid family leave gives parents time to bond with a new child, increases the duration of breastfeeding post birth, and reduces infant hospitalizations,” Cowan said in a statement to Delaware Business Times. “Today, access to paid medical leave is not accessible for many lower-wage workers in our state. Delawareans in these communities often struggle with chronic health issues and health inequities at a higher rate than other populations.”Nemours Vice President and Human Resources Chair Peter Adebi echoed those points, noting that research also shows that parental leave is linked to lower infant and child mortality rates, a reduction in preterm delivery and improved mental health outcomes for mothers.“Paid leave is a necessity that far too many workers go without, facing impossible choices between work and care for a newborn, or for themselves or a family member when facing a serious illness,” Adebi told DBT. “Nemours Children’s Health is dedicated to improving these indicators, and other markers of well-being, not only for our patients, but for all children and their families in Delaware and throughout the nation. Both ChristianaCare and Nemours have backed the bill authored and amended by State Sen. Sarah McBride (D-Wilmington) behind the scenes. In the first public hearing on SB1, lobbyist Lisa Goodman testified for the bill on behalf of ChristianaCare in late January. Since then, Nemours and ChristianaCare have written McBride and state lawmakers in support of the bill.For neighboring Wilmington health care system Saint Francis Hospitaland other institutions in Kent and Sussex counties, the response to SB1 has been less than warm. Saint Francis and Beebe Healthcare officials told DBT that they are still reviewing the pending legislation, while Bayhealth and TidalHealth did not return a request for comment.Both Beebe, which has a network of facilities in Sussex County, and Saint Francis said they follow the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, which requires employers to retain jobs for 12 weeks of unpaid eligible leave a year.Beebe officials also noted that employees recently received a market increase in pay adjustment, on top of other compensation incentives unveiled last fall, including paid-time off, bonuses, and insurance premium discounts. The hospital system recently announced it would not pass on premium increases in the upcoming benefit plan year.“In the meantime, our focus remains on how Beebe can continue to improve the benefits we offer to our team members … and Beebe continues to look for ways to thank our team members and attract prospective workers in a variety of areas,” Beebe spokesman Ryan Marshall said.SB1, also known as the Healthy Delaware Families Act,would offer 12 weeks paid parental leave and six weeks for medical and caregiving leave through a state social insurance program. Under the bill, eligible Delaware workers could receive up to 80% of their average weekly wages or up to $900 through the state-run insurance program. Businesses with less than 10 employees would not automatically qualify for paid parental leave, and those with 25 employees or less would not be covered for caregiving or medical leave.Paid family and medical leave would only apply to full-time employees who worked 1,250 hours, or a full year, much like the FMLA. The benefit is tied to inflation, state officials noted.The program would be funded by a 0.8% tax of an employee’s weekly pay, split evenly by the employee and employer. Breaking that down, Geisenberger notes that 0.4% tax would be for medical leave benefits, 0.08% for family caregiving — which included military leave — and 0.32% for parental leave. 0.8% would equal $4 for every $1,000 spent.Another notable feature of SB 1 is that, if the program begins, contributions start at a fixed rate in 2025 and 2026, but it can adjust. Both Nemours and ChristianaCare representatives said that their respective paid leave policies were established, in part, to retain their workforces. In particular, ChristianaCare conducts semi-annual company wide surveys that ask questions on compensation benefits.ChristianaCare’s paid parental leave policy applies to both mothers and fathers for births, adoptions, or foster care placement of a child.
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