Correction issued below:
NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A plan to help New Mexico workers take weeks off from work for family or medical reasons without losing out on pay, is causing controversy. One group’s proposal aims to make paid sick leave guaranteed.
The Paid Family and Medical Leave Task Force shared their recommendations Monday morning with lawmakers. The state currently requires employers to offer paid sick days. However, this proposal would cover long-term absences, up to 12 weeks.
“Right now, New Mexico employees do not have any right to extended periods of time off to take care of ill family members or to welcome a new child to their families. This policy would allow for that,” said State House Representative Linda Serrato.
Some other reasons for leave would be the loss of a child, assault, domestic violence, and stalking. The task force recommends having workers pay 0.5% of their salary and their bosses would contribute 0.4%. A worker would then receive their weekly wage, or a percentage of it, depending on how much they make, while they are on leave. This means a minimum wage worker would pay about $120 yearly, while their employer would pay about $95 for that one employee.
Serrato mentioned there are some exceptions. The task force recommended exempting business owners who have five or fewer employees. This would mean 65% of businesses in the state wouldn’t have to pay into the trust fund. The employees would still qualify for paid leave.
The task force is made up of representatives from advocacy groups, labor unions, chambers of commerce, and business owners. Some members said having a healthier workforce would benefit workers and business owners.
Other task force members said businesses would struggle with the cost. “The challenge is how do you implement it? How do you pay for it? That’s where there’s [sic] some differences of opinion on the task force,” said President of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce Rob Black.
Carla Sonntag president of the New Mexico Business Coalition says they conducted a survey of business owners using questions by the committee. She says it shows that 94% of all business owners opposed the proposal. She also says this survey was left out of the final report.
Lawmakers behind the proposal said they are working on crafting legislation based on their report. If passed, the first claims could be processed in 2026. To qualify, workers would have to be at their place of employment for six months.
Correction: In a earlier version KRQE reported that according to a survey the task force presented to business owners, most businesses did not support this. The task force believes the yearly payments would fully cover the costs of the plan, which they said would be $440 million a year. That is incorrect.
Carla Sonntag president of the New Mexico Business Coalition, says they conducted a survey of business owners using questions by the committee. She says it shows that 94% of all business owners opposed the proposal. She also says this survey was left out of the final report. This story has been updated to reflect the correction.