Legislature reaches tentative deal on family leave benefits

KING 5's Greg Copeland reports.

Lawmakers in Olympia are working on a plan that would provide employees up to 12 weeks paid leave for the birth of a child.

"I handed off to my mom and I was really reluctant," laughed Bethany Rucker, who just went back to work after the birth of her daughter Beatrice.

 "Twelve (weeks) sounds amazing," she said.

The proposal wouldn't just cover moms; it would cover dads too.

"Babies have a lot of developmentally important things happening in the first three months, so why not be home for that? Why not have momma and daddy home for that," said Rucker.

Washington lawmakers reached a tentative deal Wednesday that could give all workers paid family leave benefits. State sources say House Bill 1116, which was first heard by the labor committee in January, is not a done deal. 

“We’ve reached agreement on a framework,” Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, told The Everett Herald. “It will be the strongest policy in the country."

It's builds on a 2007 law that was passed in this state, but never implemented. Robinson and others have been able to do something lawmakers in 2007 could not: figure out funding. Think of it like your health premiums. You pay a little every paycheck, so does your employer. For someone who makes $50,000 a year, it would be about $10 a month. And because it's a statewide program, it would transfer to any job. 

KING 5 obtained a list of main highlights of the bill:

  • Up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or family member with documented and serious medical condition, as well as recover from own injury or illness. 
  • The program is funded by employee and employer contributions. Employee payroll deductions would account for 63 percent of program, with 100 percent for family leave. 
  • Benefits would be determined by a percentage of their wages compared to the average weekly wage in the state. For people earning less than state average wage, they would receive 90 percent of their income. Maximum benefit of $1,000/week.  
  • Statewide system would ensure portability as people move job positions. 
  • Benefits would begin in 2020. 
  • Businesses employing fewer than 50 people would not pay premiums, but workers would still pay into system and be able to receive all benefits.

California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island all have paid leave, but only up to six weeks, and employers don't pay into the plan. The District of Columbia and New York both have laws set to take effect next year, but only New York's will be on par with Washington. It will begin with eight weeks, and graduate to 12 by 2021. It's unclear at this point whether Washington's plan would be similar, or just begin at 12 weeks at the target date of 2020. Either way, it's a lot more time than most people currently get.

"Being able to fulfill your dreams of being a mom and not having it be a detriment to your career I think is a good thing," said Rucker.

 According to House Democrats, 72 percent of Washington voters supported paid family and medical leave in a poll earlier this year. 

 

© 2017 KING-TV


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