I grew up in a small town outside Vienna, Austria, where there is a generous paid family and leave benefit available to all workers to allow them time to care for their children and loved ones, no matter where they work.

After moving to the States in 2010, my family settled in Montpelier. I love living here, although, I was disheartened to learn that the United States is the only developed country without paid maternity leave. As a business owner and mother of two children, I am glad to see that Vermont is considering a paid family and medical leave proposal to support working Vermonters, their family members and our small business state.

While I have had access to paid family and leave benefits working in Austria, I also see how a statewide program in Vermont could have a positive impact on businesses and our economy. I recently moved into an ownership role at Nutty Steph’s in Middlesex. We have 15 employees and are able to offer up to six weeks of paid maternity and paternity leave, depending on how long an employee has been with the company.

We recognize the importance of this benefit to our employees and their families and how it contributes to a business culture where our employees are as invested in the business as we are in them. It serves as a recruitment and retention tool, reduces costs associated with turnover and more importantly, it provides the critical support that people in our communities need to maintain employment during times when family or their own personal health come first.

With the passage of H.107, our employees would have more time off (up to 12 weeks, which is the minimum recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics) and a higher wage replacement than we are able to offer at a lower cost to our business if we opted-in to cover the payroll contribution for our employees. We believe that the duration of leave and wage replacement, along with job protection, are important factors when faced with the difficult choice of caring for a family member or bringing home a paycheck.

Investing in a paid family and medical leave program in Vermont will also provide support for women and working mothers to stay in the workforce and maintain economic security for their families. Women are more likely to leave the workforce for family care, earn lower wages and live in poverty in comparison to men.

We continue to hear of the need to bring people to our state to work while we could be looking at building a structure of support for the Vermonters who are here and able to contribute more to our economy. A statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program is part of building a stronger economy and a healthy workforce, which will attract new businesses and industries to Vermont and level the playing field for small businesses.

A paid family and medical leave insurance program for all working Vermonters will support the health and well-being of our communities.

Martina Anderson is a co-owner of Nutty Steph’s in Middlesex.

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