It's a new year and a new era for parents in Washington state.
Starting this week, Washington state is rolling out one of the best state-level family leave plans America has seen yet, and a year from now, parents (and those who need to care for a family member who is ill or injured) will start taking time off—12 whole weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
This 👏 is 👏 huge 👏.
The time off part won't actually start until this time next year, but starting today, workers and companies are beginning to pay into the plan that will allow parents in that state to take 12 weeks of partially paid leave after the birth of a child. (This will put Washington state ahead of New York, which rolled out eight weeks of leave this time last year and will up it to 12 in 2021).
It's basically an insurance plan, and with few exceptions, most workers in Washington are now paying in. It won't hurt personal budgets that much though, according to the state. On a paycheck that is $2,000 gross, about $5 will now be held back to pay into the plan.
The benefits extend beyond 12 weeks in some circumstances, so for people who've had medical complications in their pregnancy, they might end up with up to 18 weeks of leave.
Can you believe it? 18 weeks.
It's not like all parents will be bringing home an entire paycheck though. As the Washington Work and Family Coalition notes, it's a progressive system that maxes out at $1,000 a week.
That means a minimum wage earner can bring home 90% of their paycheck while on parental leave, but someone at the max end of the scale, getting that $1,000 payment would only be bringing home 61% of their usual pay.
(This is not unlike the employment insurance system in Canada, where parental benefits see new parents receive 55% of their average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum amount.)
Washington's plan may not be perfect (it certainly has critics) but it is a good one, and is offering parents more time at home with their babies than any other state's plan and we hope other states follow suit (a similar plan in Massachusetts will see parents in that state getting 12 weeks of leave starting in 2021).
We know that paid parental leave is good for baby's developing brain.
We know that all parents in America deserve paid leave.
And we know that a year from now, some new mothers and fathers in Washington state are going to be a lot less stressed and able to focus on bonding with their baby.
Good job Washington.