The Popular, Affordable Path for Paid Family and Medical Leave in Washington

A just-released study funded by a U.S. Department of Labor grant to the State of Washington shows strong public support for a paid family and medical leave program – and new cost estimates that put such a program easily within reach of most workers and employers:

  • Three in four Washington voters support a state paid family and medical leave program, with strong support across party identification, gender, age, and income.
  • Strong majorities of voters favor a comprehensive program with shared premiums for employees and employers.
  • A paid family and medical leave program to care for a new child, seriously ill family member, or a worker’s own serious health condition would cost a typical worker less than a cup of coffee each week.
  • A paid family leave program would reduce the use of TANF (welfare) by new parents.

The study also included interviews with 30 employers and estimates of potential reductions in TANF (welfare) and SNAP (food stamps) usage by new mothers due to paid family leave.

California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island have established programs  that provide wage replacement for 26 to 52 weeks for the worker’s own serious health condition, including pregnancy and childbirth-related disability, and from 4 to 12 additional weeks of paid family leave to care for a newborn or newly placed child or for a seriously ill family member. The programs are typically funded through payroll premiums.

A number of other states, including Washington, are considering establishing similar programs.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in A Fair Deal at Work, Paid Family and Medical Leave


  1. Lara Sirois says:


    I have worked my entire career (as an architect) for firms of 20 or fewer employees and while I was thrilled to hear about the new family leave act, I’m very disappointed to hear that as with the FMLA, I won’t be covered. I understand that Marilyn Watkins with your group was involved in the negotiations and I wanted to know the reason for threshold of 50 employees and if there were plans to remove that threshold in the future to cover ALL workers in Washington.

    I just had my second child and did my second unpaid, twelve-week maternity leave. This time I was able to use all my sick leave and vacation time for the year, which means I have no vacation and sick time left for the rest of the year. In both cases, my family has racked up significant credit card debt in order for me to stay home the bare minimum time that seems reasonable for a new parent to stay home with their child. It’s really frustrating to think that if this law were in effect right now, I wouldn’t have been covered by it. Can you tell me why the legislature feels that I’m not deserving of the same protections as my husband (who works for a large employer) just because I’m one of ten people in my office? It seems brutally unfair. Thank you for your time.

    • Economic Opportunity Institute says:

      Good question, and thanks for the opportunity to clarify. All Washington employers (except the United States) must provide this benefit. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may elect not to pay the employer portion of the premiums, but their employees are still eligible for benefits. If the employer does choose to pay the employer portion of the premiums, the company (those with fewer than 150 employees) may receive grants to offset wage costs while an employee is on leave. Employers may also opt out of the program if they have a comparable plan and pay a $250 fee to have the plan evaluated to ensure it is truly comparable.

Leave a Reply