On December 20, 2016, the District of Columbia City Council passed the Universal Paid Leave Act (UPLA), one of the nation’s most expansive parental leave laws. The new legislation grants all full-time and part-time workers eight weeks of paid leave following childbirth, adoption or fostering of a new child. The law also provides for six weeks paid leave to assist ailing family members and two weeks paid leave for personal medical emergencies.
The law, which passed by a “veto-proof ” 9-4 vote, only includes private sector workers and excludes federal and city employees. There is no residency requirement for employees to qualify under this law; employees can reside in other cities and states and only need to be employed in the District of Columbia to be eligible. The leave program will be funded by a payroll tax increase of 0.62%. Eligible employees will receive 90% of their weekly wages with a cap at $1,000.00 per week. D.C. will begin collecting the increased payroll tax from employers in 2019 and will begin paying benefits under the UPLA to employees in 2020. The measure passed over opposition from the District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Muriel Bowser, who expressed concern regarding the taxation of D.C. businesses to benefit workers who largely live outside of the city and the logistics of the administration of the plan. Unless overridden by Congress, the act will become law.
The federal Family Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12 month period to care for a newborn, adopted or foster child, to care for a sick family member or for personal medical reasons. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey indicates that 12% of private sector workers in the U.S. have paid family leave
D.C.’s Universal Paid Leave Act represents one of the nation’s most generous paid parental leave laws and may signal a trend across the country. D.C. joins California, New Jersey and Rhode Island in offering paid family leave and New York’s 12-week paid parental leave law that becomes effective on January 1, 2018. The state of California and the city of San Francisco have also recently expanded parental leave laws. Additional paid leave legislation has been introduced or is being pursued in many other states throughout the country. Further, the national trend toward paid sick leave laws has also been gaining momentum at both the state and local levels. Whether the trend in paid sick leave will translate to increased passage of paid family leave legislation remains to be seen.
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