paid family leave | KNKX

paid family leave

Beginning in 2020, workers in Washington will be eligible for paid family and medical leave through a new state program funded by employee and employer contributions. 



The idea of giving workers paid time off to care for a new baby or an elderly parent has long been a priority of the left. But now the idea is gaining traction with some Republicans in the Washington Legislature.

Workers in Washington state are already eligible for up to 24 weeks of unpaid family and medical leave under state and federal law. A decade ago the Washington Legislature passed a paid family leave program, but never funded it. Now Washington Democrats and their labor allies are making a hard push to finally fund and expand that program.

Aiming to attract and keep top-notch talent, a growing number of companies are dangling family-friendly perks such as lengthy paid leave for new moms and dads, back-up child care and onsite infant vaccines. But the attention-grabbing headlines — such as "IBM plans to ship employees' breast milk home" — obscure the reality that for many workers, basic benefits such as guaranteed parental leave, even unpaid, are unavailable.

Nancy Glynn, 27, called it her "NICU diet," but it wasn't about weight loss. It was about financial survival.

When her son, Hunter, was born two months premature, he was 2 pounds, 10 ounces and fighting for his life. Hunter was in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, for more than a month.

Bridget Coila via Creative Commons / Flickr

Bonding with a new baby could soon become less financially stressful for King County's more than 14,000 employees.

The county is considering an expansion of its paid parental leave program – allowing its employees up to 12 weeks away from the office after the birth or adoption of a child. 

Right now, new parents who work for King County can cobble together paid leave from accrued sick pay and vacation time to be with their babies.

Ted S. Warren / AP

A Washington State Representative who has been trying to make paid family leave available to all workers says a new federal grant will be a big help. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded $247,000 to Washington state to research how paid family leave might be implemented.

<<Jonny Boy>> / Flickr

The House has approved a measure that indefinitely delays implementation of an as-of-yet unfunded law giving Washington state parents five weeks of paid time off to be with a new child until the Legislature finds a way to pay for it.

The bill was approved Friday on a 70-19 vote and now heads to the Senate.