Originally published in The Everett Herald.

For a decade Washington state has had a paid family leave law — but in name only.

It technically allows workers to take up to five weeks off for the birth or adoption of a child and was supposed to provide a weekly benefit of $250. But in passing the law, which would have taken effect in 2009, legislators never identified where the money for that modest benefit was to come from.

Under state and federal law, employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave to care for family and themselves over a 12-month period, but the time away from work goes unpaid. Four states — California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York — offer paid family leave. Nineteen other states, including Washington state, are considering legislation to offer it.

There’s growing public support for paid family leave. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll last May found that 72 percent of Americans supported paid family leave. Support was strongest among Democrats, but was also significant among Republicans. Support also was stronger among those ages 40 to 64, typically referred to as the “Sandwich Generation,” those who often must provide care for children and for aging parents.

House Bill 1116, sponsored by Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, and a similar bill in the Senate, SB 5032, would provide leave under the same circumstances but extend its length to 26 weeks beginning in October 2019; would provide 12 weeks of leave for an individual’s own serious illness; would be based on a percentage of a worker’s salary but capped at $1,000; and would require employers to pay the benefit’s premium at 0.255 percent of the worker’s wage as of July 1, 2018 and 0.51 percent as of 2020. Employers could deduct up to half of the premium’s cost from an employee’s pay.

You can read the full editorial in The Everett Herald.

Washington Work and Family Coalition

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