New state benefit provides paid family, medical leave

Need extended time off for family or medical?  You soon may not have to use PL

Washington State Paid Family and Medical Leave Program  

A new state law that takes effect Jan. 1 creates a new state-run benefit program that provides paid leave of up to $1,000 per week for as many as 18 weeks for any qualifying employee who needs an extended absence from work to deal with a family or medical condition.

At Grant PUD, non-union employees eligible for this benefit Jan. 1. Union employees will be eligible starting April 1, when their new collective bargaining agreement begins.

Workers can get wages, up to a maximum weekly cap of $1,000, for 12 to 18 weeks to care for a new child, newly adopted or fostered child and to deal with a serious illness affecting oneself or a family member.

You will not have to first use your PL to start receiving this benefit.

The program is funded through premiums paid by employers and employees, not tax dollars. The state began collecting the premium in 2019 — 0.4% of an employee's gross wages. The employer is responsible for paying at least 33.67% of the total 0.4% premium. Grant PUD began deducting the premium from non-bargaining-unit employees in early 2019 and paying its 33.67% share.

Background: The Washington State Legislature passed this legislation in 2017. The governor signed it into law the same year. U.S. law requires employers to give workers at least 12 weeks of job-protected leave, but doesn't require the leave to be paid. Workers often don't take the leave, because they can't afford to take unpaid time off. This new law changes that, at least for most Washington State workers.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reported that as of March 2019, only 19% of U.S. civilian workers had paid family leave. Citing a recent UNICEF study, the same news article says the U.S ranked last out of 40 developed countries in paid leave for mothers and fathers.

Learn more: Grant PUD's HR folks, together with Communications Specialist Lindsay Thompson, have created a web page that should answer most of your questions about this new benefit and how it applies to Grant PUD employees.