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King County Will Pilot A 12-Week Paid Parental Leave Program Next Year

Joshua Rappeneker

This past year, there’s been a push among big corporations, including Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, to expand paid leave for new moms and dads.

Local governments are also boosting benefits. Earlier this year, Seattle began offering city workers four weeks of paid leave after birth or an adoption, and now King County will start piloting 12 weeks of paid parental leave in the new year.

All of this comes in the absence of action at the federal level. According to the International Labor Organization, only Papua New Guinea and the United States offer no paid maternity leave.

But if you're lucky enough to work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, you're eligible for as much as one full year of paid parental leave. King County executive Dow Constantine says to compete for talent, the county has to offer its 13,000 workers more attractive leave policies.

"One of the things they expect is that they’re going to be able to spend time with their newborn or their newly adopted child and their employer is going to make that happen," Constantine said. 

County officials say the one-year pilot program will cost about $2.9 million. They expect about 240 employees to use the paid parental leave.

The state of Washington is using a federal grant to explore a possible paid family leave program for all workers. In 2007, the legislature passed a law to create a family leave insurance program, but it was never implemented.