WA legislative champions: Paid leave will benefit workers and businesses alike!
Family is at the heart of every small business! That’s why it’s exciting that the stork is making a delivery to Main Streets across Washington State... Paid Family and Medical Leave! Beginning January 2020, Paid Family and Medical Leave will provide workers with the financial stability to care for a new child, a critically ill close family member, or their own serious medical condition -- and no business or person will carry the financial burden alone because we are all in it together. This new program will help level the playing field by providing small businesses with the assistance they need so that employees can be there for family during times of joy and times of hardship.
As part of this new program, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees have the option of contributing or not -- their employees will receive benefits from the Washington Employment Security Department either way. However, businesses that contribute premiums and have fewer than 150 employees can receive small business assistance to help cover costs while an employee is on leave. Businesses can apply for up to ten grants each year.
In 2017 Washington legislators came together in a bipartisan effort to pass a best-in-nation paid family and medical leave policy for Washington workers. The funding structure will begin in January of 2019 and then businesses and workers will be able to start using the Paid Family and Medical Leave program in January of 2020.
Representative June Robinson (38th Legislative District) and Senator Karen Keiser 33rd Legislative District) were two of the legislative champions (and superheroes) of paid family and medical leave. They both shared their thoughts with MomsRising about this MOMumental milestone.
“Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program is a testament to all we can achieve when we work together to pass policies that lift us all. It was incredibly heartening to work with nonprofits, organized labor unions, and the business community who all came to the table to find a win-win solution for businesses, families, and our economy,” said Senator Keiser.
“Paid Family and Medical Leave is a game-changer,” continued Senator Keiser, “especially for small businesses across our state. Small business owners have long wanted to provide valued employees with the time they need to care for themselves and their families, but paid leave policies have simply been too costly. Under this new program, paid leave is made affordable and accessible for businesses of all sizes. In fact, we’re leveling the playing field by helping small business owners to offer competitive benefits that we know improve recruitment, retention, and productivity.”
Representative Robinson had this to share: “We know that access to paid family and medical leave is critical for workers and their families. And it’s important for businesses too! That’s why Washington’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave program includes innovative strategies to benefit small businesses and their employees.”
“The new program is built around a social insurance model, so no one will not foot the bill for the program alone. In fact, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees have the option of contributing premiums or not but their employees will receive benefits regardless. What’s more, we’ve created incentives for small businesses to contribute premiums by offering grants to cover costs while an employee is out. Washington is the first state with paid family and medical leave to include a package of grants and other resources to small business owners to ease any hardship they may face otherwise,” said Representative Robinson.
Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave will be paid for through a statewide insurance pool that employees and some employers will contribute to beginning on January 1, 2019.
Responsibilities for employers include:
1) Choosing to use the State Plan or a Voluntary Plan. You can find more information and instructions on the Employment Security Department’s at ESD’s website.
2) Withholding payroll deductions of employees
3) Reporting wages and hours for employees
Then, beginning January 1, 2020, workers will be able to apply for and receive Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits through the Washington Employment Security Department. Workers will receive a percentage of their wages, with low-income workers receiving 90% of their wages and higher income workers receiving a progressively smaller portion of their wages. The maximum weekly benefit is $1,000. Learn more about Washington’s program here.
We’re thrilled that this model program passed in Washington State and thank all the many members of MomsRising for raising their voices to help bring this new opportunity for families, businesses, and workers in Washington State.