State officials will be in Vancouver on Monday evening to answer questions about the major change to state law
VANCOUVER — If you’re a business owner in Vancouver, you may want to set aside some time next Monday evening to be at the Cascade Park Community Library. Officials with the state’s Employment Security Department (ESD) will be there to answer questions about the upcoming Paid Family and Medical Leave program.
In July of last year, the legislature approved a program that will allow most employees around the state to take up to 12 weeks off (18 in some limited situations) after the birth of a child, due to an illness, or to care for a loved one who is sick, with at least part of their pay guaranteed. Washington will be the fifth state to have such a program, but the only one that will fund most of it by requiring employers and employees to deduct a monthly premium of 0.4%.
In the case of someone making $50,000 a year, the premium would amount to around $3.84 per week, with employers paying 37 percent and the rest being covered out of the employee’s paycheck.
The premium will need to be deducted starting in 2019, although the program won’t be available until 2020. It will apply to anyone who worked at least 820 hours in 2019. Benefits paid out will depend on what the employee earns, and the state’s overall average wage, with a cap of $1,000 per week.
Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be exempted from paying the employer portion of the premium, and businesses with less than 150 workers will be eligible for grants from the state to cover some or all of an employee’s medical or family leave.
The ESD has set up four phases to implement the program, with the first — setting rules covering premiums, collective bargaining units, and voluntary leave programs — having been completed last May. They are currently in phase two, which covers the responsibilities of employers, small business assistance, and penalties. They’re set to wrap up this phase by the end of November, which is why ESD staff have been setting up free Q and A sessions across the state to hear from business owners and help answer questions.
Monday’s session will begin at 6:30pm, but officials will be around earlier than that to answer questions. The Cascade Park Community Library is at 600 NE 136th Ave. While the session is primarily to answer questions from business owners and Human Resources professionals, members of the general public are welcome to attend.
If you can’t make it to Monday’s session, you can find out more information at paidleave.wa.gov, and email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. There are also online webinar sessions available at this link, along with information about other public forums. Public meetings related to the ongoing rulemaking process are available here, and the public is invited to engage online at this link where they can provide comments.