District of Columbia passes paid family leave bill


Councillors in the District of Columbia (DC), Washington, have passed a bill that provides eight weeks of paid parental leave for private sector employees who work DC.

The Universal Paid Leave Act will enable private sector employees to have eight weeks of paid parental leave when a new child joins a household through birth, adoption, foster care or assumed legal guardianship.

The bill also includes six weeks of leave to care for sick relatives and two weeks of leave for self-care, for personal injury or illness.

The new leave will be funded through an employer payroll tax of 0.62%.

Employees who earn up to one and a half times the minimum wage will be able to receive 90% of their salary. Employees earning more will receive 90% of their salary up to one and a half times the minimum wage and then 50% of their wage, up to a maximum $1,000 (£812.71) a week.

The bill will be reviewed three years after implementation to determine whether the tax rate or benefit levels need to be amended.

The bill was passed by DC council members on 20 December 2016 by a final vote of nine to four. It requires approval from the mayor, or in the event of a mayoral veto, action by the Council to overturn the veto.

Muriel Bowser, mayor of DC, said: “Chairman Mendelson and the Council passed a $250 million tax increase to mostly benefit residents of Maryland and Virginia. It is wrong to raise District taxes to fund a costly, new government [programme] that sends 66% of the benefits outside of the city, and leaves District families behind. If the Council wants to raise $250 million in new taxes, shouldn’t the focus be on District residents and their needs?

“I predict the council will need to revisit this legislation and address the detrimental impacts on District residents and small businesses. I will not add my name to this legislation.”

A spokesperson for Family Values at Work said: “We are thrilled that the DC City Council passed a comprehensive paid family and medical leave bill which will guarantee about 530,000 [employees] the ability to take the time they need to care for themselves and their loved ones without falling into financial hardship.

“While DC is showing true leadership by passing such a bill, it is important to note that the eight weeks proposed for parental leave falls short of the 12 weeks recommended by doctors to be sufficient to care for infants during this critical time in their lives. It is also important to address the bill’s inadequate length of time for caring for a personal health condition.”