The Utah House narrowly passed a bill that would give a tax credit to businesses that offer paid family- and medical leave for their employees who have worked in the same job for a year or more.

Without a vote to spare, the House approved HB278, which would create a state tax credit that mirrors a federal credit created by Congress last year.

Full-time workers making less than $72,000 a year could receive at least two weeks of paid leave and receive at least half of their wages for their time off. Part-time workers must get some paid leave as well under the bill that now heads to the Senate.

“This would be an important nudge towards doing something that would really help their employees,” said Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, the bill’s sponsor. “This is a rare opportunity to support family members who are in tight circumstances.”

The bill is part of a push by advocates for employees with families to stay in the workplace. Women are far less likely than men to join the Utah workforce, according to state data.

It was part of a package of bills that supporters said would help low-income Utahns and workers. Backers are also hoping lawmakers will pass and agree to pay for HB57, which would create a tax credit that about 25,000 low-income workers could receive.

Two women who receive the federal credit – Fabiola Spence and Angela McKinnon, both from Taylorsville – said at the Capitol on Friday the money helps them make it through the year.

Spence helps pay for her expenses using a credit card, and the credit is enough to pay that debt without going further in a hole.

“I hope they approve this one,” Spence said.

HB278 is also a priority of the Salt Lake Chamber, one of the state’s largest business groups and a lobbying force at the Capitol. The group says at least tens of thousands of employees would be eligible for paid leave under the bill.

HB278 still must pass the Senate in the remaining four days of the session and would join a long list of bills seeking funding as lawmakers finish assembling the state’s annual budget. The law is expected to cost the state about $4.1 million per year.

The bill “is a step in the right direction and a signal to companies that we can be pro-business and pro-family as a state,” said Michael Parker, a Salt Lake Chamber lobbyist, “while having the benefit of expanding and supporting our labor force.”