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New D.C. Bill Proposes 16 Weeks of Paid Family Leave

A bill introduced in the D.C. Council on October 6 would enable nearly every part-time and full-time employee in the District to receive up to 16 weeks of paid leave for family and health-related reasons. Under the proposed legislation, employees would be entitled to paid time off from work to care for a newborn or adopted child, receive medical treatment, tend to an ill family member, or help a family member prepare for military deployment, among other reasons.

The Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015, which would offer the most generous family leave in the nation, would be paid for by a fund created by a new tax on D.C. employers, including nonprofits. Similar to a state unemployment insurance pool, employers would pay into the fund on a sliding scale. Employers with the highest-paid workers would contribute the equivalent of 1 percent of the salaries of employees earning over $150,000 annually, while employers of minimum-wage workers would contribute 0.6 percent of each worker's pay.

All employees working for private employers in D.C would be eligible for the benefit, while federal employees who reside in D.C. could also pay a small fee to participate. Residents of Maryland and Virginia who work for the federal government would not be eligible.

Employees earning up to $52,000 per year would receive 100% of their average weekly wages during their leave, while employees who earn more than $52,000 could receive $1,000 per week plus 50% of their average weekly wages in excess of $1,000, up to a maximum weekly benefit of $3,000 per week.

The bill reflects council members' interest in placing the city at the forefront of efforts to improve paid leave for workers in the United States, as well as strong support from the Obama Administration, which provided a grant to the District through the Department of Labor to conduct a study on development of a paid family and medical leave program. While a majority of the D.C. Council supports the bill, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is reportedly undecided on it. The bill has also drawn criticism from the D.C. Chamber of Commerce for the additional costs it will impose on employers.

For more information, please see the Washington Post's article, “D.C.’s 16-week family leave plan would be most generous in U.S” and The Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015