Washington state’s new Paid Family Leave law takes effect

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SEATTLE -- The New Year means big changes for anyone planning on starting a family or for anyone with a seriously ill family member. Washington is one of the pioneer states to implement a Paid Family Leave policy.

The new law that's in effect Wednesday is being called a game changer not just for employees who need to take time off, but for businesses as well. Supporters say it'll boost the state's economy and help some people's health.

"Right now if you have a baby and you have to take time off work unpaid, and then have to go back into work and have childcare cost more than college, then you're in really big trouble." said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director and CEO of Moms Rising.

It's an all too common scenario that creates debt and other issues. Rowe-Finkbeiner believes the new policy will drastically improve people's lives.

"It's proven to make sure people owning the businesses don't have to spend a lot of money on recruitment and retraining," she said. "And it allows people to be there when their family needs them the most."

She says the new law will impact people going through various life-altering situations.

"This policy is literally about life and death. It's about being able to be there when a new baby arrives or when you adopt a baby or when you have a foster child come into your home, or to be there when you have an absolutely critical health emergency in your own life or with your spouse or close family member," she said.

Here's what you can expect to see with the new law:

People will have the right to take up to 12 to 18 weeks of paid family leave, so long as they’ve worked a minimum of 820 hours in a year.

This can be for reasons including a serious illness of a qualifying family member, or a birth of a child.

When you take paid leave, you could receive up to 90 percent of your weekly pay — up to a maximum of $1,000 a week.

According to the state website, certain workers are not automatically eligible for paid leave, including:

  • Federal employees
  • People employed by businesses located on tribal land (see below)
  • Self-employed people who choose not to opt in to the state program

Learn more here.

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