A newly-released study shows strong public support for a new comprehensive paid family and medical leave program, and new cost estimates show it’s easy and affordable for workers and employers. In response, state legislators and community leaders are announcing their commitment to pursue paid family and medical leave legislation in the coming legislative session.
The study, funded by a U.S. Department of Labor grant to the State of Washington, shows:
- 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 which shares minimal costs for employees and employers.
- Analysis shows paid family and medical leave to care for a new child, seriously ill family member, or a worker’s own serious health condition would cost a typical worker $2 or less each week, and that such a program would reduce the use of state assistance by new parents and save the state money.
“I’ve been listening to my constituents all summer and fall – there’s a growing sense of urgency,” said Rep. June Robinson (38th LD – Everett). “Our families are paying too high a price now. It’s time to move forward with paid family and medical leave. I’ll continue conversations with my colleagues and stakeholders over the next few weeks and have a bill ready the first week of session.”
“We had bipartisan support on paid family leave in the Senate a decade ago,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (33rd LD – Des Moines). “Since then, we’ve learned even more about how important those first months of a child’s life are to her whole future, and have been searching for smart ways to deal with caring for our aging population. Folks on both sides of the aisle care about these issues.”
With such strong support from state voters, the Washington Work and Family Coalition is planning to push for a new paid family and medical leave policy in Olympia this session.
“We’ve seen from experience in other states that these programs work to improve maternal and infant health, boost gender wage equity, and support thriving small businesses,” said Marilyn Watkins, policy director for the Economic Opportunity Institute and spokesperson for the Washington Work and Family Coalition. “We’ve also learned from the gaps in other state programs. Our coalition is energized, and we’ll have people from across the state showing up in Olympia demanding action.”
“Paid family leave is a win-win policy. That’s why MomsRising’s 40,000 Washington members strongly support advancing state legislation in 2017,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO/co-founder of MomsRising.org and a member of the coalition. “Paid family and medical leave allows employees to take time off from work to care for a newborn baby or sick family member without having to forgo much-needed pay and it also helps businesses – especially those on Main Street – because they see more productive and loyal employees and save money on recruitment and training. That’s why we’re rolling up our sleeves to keep the momentum going forward because this policy boosts families, businesses, and the economy while also saving lives.”
The study also included interviews with 30 employers and estimates of potential reductions in TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) 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 are considering establishing similar programs.