Washington can learn from the experience of other states to establish a program that will promote health across the lifespan, build family economic security, and provide predictability and peace of mind for employers and employees alike.
We’ve introduced the Washington Work and Family Coalition’s proposal to pass paid family medical leave in the 2017 Legislative Session.
Beginning in 2019, and employee could take up to 26 weeks of paid family leave, which includes caring for a newborn or newly-adopted child or a family member with a serious health condition.
Beginning in 2020, an employee could take up to 12 weeks of paid medical leave, which can only be used for the employee’s own serious health condition.
Our proposal would phase-in paid family and medical leave over four years, giving Washington business owners and workers time to plan and gradually fund the program.
The benefits for employees are progressive, based on weekly wages, and top off at $1,000 per week. For example, someone earning $500 per week would get a weekly benefit of 90 percent; someone with earnings of $1,000 per week would get 72 percent; and someone with earnings of $2,000 per week would be able to claim 50 percent.
Employees would be guaranteed job protection at companies of eight or more employees after working there for at least six months, follow already-defined standards for job protection in state and federal law.
Our proposal would make paid family and medical leave affordable for Washington employees and business owners, paid for by payroll premiums. When the program fully phases-in by 2020, the premium would be set at .51 percent, split by employees and employers. For the typical Washington worker, it would cost about $2 a week.
At some point in their life, everyone needs to take extended time away from work to care for themselves or a loved one, whether for a new child, a car accident, or a medical emergency. With paid family and medical leave, Washington workers will be able to take 26 weeks of paid family leave for maternity/paternity leave or to take care of a loved one, and 12 weeks of paid medical leave to take care of their own health emergencies. It will help ensure every Washington child has a solid foundation for lifelong health, learning, and opportunity, and support health, healing, and dignity across the lifespan.
With paid family leave, new mothers will be able to stay home with their children for up to 26 weeks — the amount of time health experts recommend moms exclusively breastfeed their babies. Paid family leave improves maternal health and also allows new fathers time to bond, with lasting positive benefits for the child and family. Women in states with paid leave programs are more likely to be working a year following childbirth, less likely to go on public assistance, and earn more than women in other states.1 Currently, kids born into high-income families get all these advantages from birth, while kids born into low- income families too often start out with the disadvantages of short parental leaves. Our aging population means that more workers than ever are also caring for parents and other family members – and are more prone to serious illness or injury themselves. Nearly 1 million Washingtonians are providing unpaid care for an adult family member.2 Paid family leave in Washington would mean adult children could take time to care for parents, in-laws, or grandparents. It could mean the difference between a quick recovery at home or an extended stay in an expensive nursing facility for seniors.
Paid family and medical leave provides insurance so the employers don’t have to cover the full cost of an employee’s leave themselves. That allows smaller companies to better compete, and gives them the flexibility to add hours for other employees or bring on additional help when someone goes out on leave. The cost is low and predictable from year to year – about $12 per week for a business with an annual payroll of $250,000. Employees are more likely to come back to work when they are ready to focus and be fully productive, and with peace of mind morale goes up, too.3 A Washington paid family and medical leave program will lift up workers, businesses, and seniors, and help build thriving and healthy communities for us all.
- “The Effects of California’s Paid Family Leave Program on Mothers’ Leave-Taking and Subsequent Labor Market Outcomes.” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 17715. December 2011.
- “The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving.” AARP Public Policy Institute. 2011.
- “Policy Matters: Public Policy, Paid Leave for Parents, and Economic Security for U.S. Workers.” Center for Women and Work, Rutgers. April 2012.