Universal Paid Family & Medical Leave

Passage of a Statewide Paid Family & Medical Leave Program

The passage of a statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) policy will create a best-in-nation program that will greatly benefit Washington State’s working families. Following the implementation of this program, workers will no longer have to choose between providing for their families or taking time away from work to bond with a new child or to care for a loved one or themselves. Historically, low-income workers and women of color in particular have suffered from a lack of access to paid family and medical leave benefits. With these facts in mind, I embarked on a process more than two years ago to develop and advance a Paid Family and Medical Leave policy for the working families of Seattle. A study commissioned by the City Council showed both the lack of access to paid family and medical leave and businesses’ desire to provide this benefit. I am proud that this study and my outreach to over 100 business owners in Seattle contributed to a successful negotiation of a statewide program.

The passage of a statewide policy is proof positive that Seattle’s local priorities can – and should - have regional significance. In previous legislative sessions, efforts to implement a paid family and medical leave policy in the State Legislature stalled out. I thank and congratulate all the stakeholders, including business leaders and working family advocates, who came to the negotiating table in an earnest effort to find common ground and craft a policy that will benefit both Washington’s workers and businesses.

While the United States may still be the only industrialized nation in the world without a federal paid parental leave policy, Washington State has found a way to do what’s right for the health of the families, children, and the economy.

Countries without paid leave: Lesotho, Swaziland, Papua New Guinea, United States

The United States is the only country in the developed world without legally-mandated paid parental leave.

The Need for a Universal Paid Family & Medical Leave Program

Research demonstrates that the following outcomes are associated with access to paid family and medical leave:

  • A reduction in the gender pay gap, increased female participation in the workforce and improvement in maternal economic outcomes, especially for low- and mid-wage earners and women of color
  • Improvement in social, educational and health outcomes for children, especially among vulnerable populations – children of parents who utilize paid family leave experience a reduction in infant mortality, an improvement in social abilities and an increase in graduation rates
  • More economic security for families and a decreased reliance on public assistance and food stamps
  • Increased competitiveness for Seattle’s businesses which will attract and retain more talented and dedicated workers by offering a meaningful benefit at an affordable cost to employers
  • A stronger local economy with a healthier and more stable workforce

How Does It Work?

Paid family and medical leave works like an insurance benefit, similar to the state’s workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance programs:

  • Employers and employees pay premiums into a fund whose sole purpose is for paid family and medical leave claims.
    • Premiums will begin being collected in January 2019
  • When an employee experiences a qualifying event, the employee is eligible to receive wage replacement benefits and be given job security while on leave
    • The benefits will be available to qualifying workers in January 2020

Covered Events

Family Leave - Up to 12 weeks
  • for the birth, adoption or fostering of a new child
  • to care for a family member who is seriously ill or injured
Personal Medical Leave - Up to 12 weeks
  • for workers who experience a critical injury or illness
Up to 18 weeks total per year are allowed when using both types of leave


Paid Leave Programs Across the Nation

 Maximum Length of Paid Family LeaveMaximum Wage Replacement
(2002, 2016)
6 weeks $1,173
New Jersey
6 weeks $633
Rhode Island
4 weeks $817
New York
12 weeks $875
Washington State
12 weeks $1,000