The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

D.C. Council Introduces Paid Family Leave Plan

Paid-Family-Leave-blogAs paid family leave becomes an increasingly important topic on the national stage and a major issue in the presidential election, with Democrat and Republican contenders alike advocating for family leave policies, the Washington D.C. Council recently introduced legislation that would provide D.C. workers and residents with up to 16 weeks of paid family and medical leave every two years. The Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015, if passed, would be the most generous family-leave assistance program for employees among all 50 states — and the most costly. Many supporters are suggesting it as a model for the whole country to follow, while others, including the Washington Post Editorial Board, are concerned about the impact of the proposal on employers and jobs.

The bill, introduced by council members David Grosso and Elissa Silverman, would provide 16 weeks of paid time off to recover from an illness, care for a child, support an ill family member or other qualifying circumstances. During the paid time off, D.C. would pay 100 percent of earnings to those making $1,000 per week or less. Workers who earn more than that would receive $1,000 per week plus 50 percent of their additional pay up to a maximum weekly benefit of $3,000. Essentially, any worker that makes up to $52,000 a year would be able to receive their full salary for about four months should the proposed legislation pass. Additionally, the benefit would extend to workers (even those who live outside of D.C.) and residents (even those whose work outside of D.C.) alike — an especially poignant point for a city largely employed by the federal government.

In order to cover the costs associated with providing paid family leave, the bill would establish the Family and Medical Leave Fund to collect revenue from a payroll tax based largely on employees’ earnings. Businesses and non-federal employers would be required to pay 1 percent of each employee’s salary for those earning $150,000 or more and would pay from .5 percent to 1 percent of each employee’s salary for those earning between $10,000 and $150,000 per year. Any employer with employees making less than $10,000 per year would not have to pay into the fund for those specific employees.

The introduction of the bill comes on the back of a presidential Executive Order requiring federal contractors to offer their employees up to seven days of paid sick leave per year (more on this here) and a large push by the Obama Administration to expand access to paid leave by providing funding to states and municipalities for feasibility studies on paid leave programs. The Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 is a direct result of the grant funding the District of Columbia received in 2014 to model a paid leave plan and indicates that many states may follow suit as the Department of Labor unveils an additional $1 million grant program to help states conduct similar studies.

For resources related to paid leave, see the new Paid Time Off Toolkit in CUPA-HR’s Knowledge Center