Key Elements of Proposed Family and Medical Leave Insurance for Washington
In 2007, Washington’s legislature approved a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program (FMLI) to provide parents of newborn or newly adopted children up to 5 weeks of partially paid leave. Due to the severity of the fiscal crisis, the legislature has twice delayed implementation, now scheduled for 2015.
Now Washington policymakers have the opportunity to expand and adapt the 2007 program to conform more closely with programs in other states and federal standards, and to better serve both low- and middle-income workers and their families.
- Leave: Up to 12 weeks to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or sick family member. Up to 12 weeks for the worker’s own serious health condition.
- Benefits: 2/3 of usual weekly pay, up to $1,000 per week (with annual COLA).
- Premiums: Calculated as a percentage of worker’s wage and salary income, shared by employees and employers, starting at about $1/week for the average worker
- Implementation: Premium collection begins January 2015. Parental and family leave benefits begin October 2015, workers’ disability benefits begin October 2016.
What protections do Washington workers have now?
Federal and state family and medical leave laws allow workers to take up to 12 weeks off work without pay for the same purposes covered by FMLI. But those laws only apply to about 60% of workers, leaving out those who work for companies with fewer than 50 employees, have been with their employer less than a full year, or work fewer than 24 hours per week on average.
Workers in Washington with paid leave may use it for family care, but one-third of workers have no paid sick leave and one-fourth have no paid vacation, according to national statistics. Workers inside Seattle city limits will be guaranteed some paid sick leave starting September 2012, if they work for companies with more than 4 employees, thanks to a City law passed last year. But for most, even sick leave and vacation together allow no more than a few paid weeks off per year.
TDI/Family Leave programs in other states
California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode island, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico have temporary disability insurance programs covering all workers in their states. Most of these programs have been in place since the 1940s, and are funded through modest payroll taxes. California added 6 weeks for bonding with a new child or caring for a sick family member to its TDI program in 2004 and New Jersey added a similar benefit in 2009. Each program varies in benefit levels, financing, and other details. Learn more in Where It’s Working »