Family leave research: clarifying opt-out vs. opt-in

Editor’s note: Kristin Smith, associate research professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire and a family demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy, wrote this letter to the House Labor Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee to clarify the testimony she gave to the panel on House Bill 628, which would have established a paid family and medical leave insurance system in New Hampshire. The panel voted to retain the measure until the 2018 session.

Dear Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee,

It is has come to my attention that my testimony may not have been clear on one point. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify the findings of my research for the committee.

In my testimony I was referring to an entirely voluntary opt-in program when I stated that a hypothetical program of that type may not be sustainable. 

HB 628 implies full participation, unless an employee proactively opts out, which is different from the hypothetical program referenced above. Our simulations of an entirely mandatory insurance program, for both employers and employees, show much lower costs and a mixed risk pool, and thus would certainly be sustainable and have very high participation levels. Under HB 628, and the amendment, the insurance would piggyback off of an existing employer obligation, and offer employees an opportunity to opt-out before employment. 

Our research finds that 1) approximately 14 percent of workers are predicted to take a leave annually under the all-inclusive policy; 2) the average length of leave is eight weeks under the all-inclusive policy; and 3) high levels of New Hampshire workers support and are willing to pay for this type of family and medical leave program.

We also find that 69 percent of New Hampshire workers state they are willing to pay $5 per week into a program, which is approximately equal to the average cost per employee under the all-inclusive policy simulation. 

Respectfully submitted,

Kristin Smith

Categories: Letters to the Editor