New parents in Washington state will soon be able to take up to 16 weeks of paid leave to stay home with their child. The new policy will go into effect starting January 1, 2020, making Washington one of only four states in the U.S. that currently offer paid family leave.
“It’s a benefit for the people who could take the leave, but it’s also a benefit for employers,” Carla Reyes, the director of the state’s paid family and medical leave, told The Seattle Times. “We’re hoping it will help people recover faster and return to work faster.”
Through the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program, which was implemented in 2018, individuals will be able to take 12 weeks of paid leave after the birth of their child, while couples will be able to take a combined 16 weeks. Additionally, any parent diagnosed with pregnancy complications will be eligible for up to 18 weeks.
To qualify for the benefits, which will be paid as a percentage of wages up to $1,000, the parent must have worked 820 hours in the last year. The employee can be full-time, part-time, or even self-employed and can have worked for either one or multiple employers. If eligible, the average person will contribute about $2 per week to their leave fund.
Washington’s new initiative is part of a larger push for better parental leave policies in the U.S., which is the only developed country without guaranteed paid parental leave. Currently, California, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are the only states with a paid leave program, while plans in the District of Columbia, and Massachusetts are set to roll out in the next few years.
Many hope that Washington’s recent decision to offer paid leave will set a precedent for more states to follow suit.