PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The Oregon Employment Department has set 1% of wages as the initial cap for contributions by employers and employees to the state’s new program of paid family medical leave.

The new payments will start Jan. 1, 2023. Employees will contribute 60% of the new trust fund — their contributions will be deducted from their paychecks — and employers will contribute 40%. Program director Karen Madden Humelbaugh said the fund must be large enough to pay benefits for six months.

The first benefits are scheduled for payment on Sept. 3, 2023.

The law requires rates to be set annually. Madden Humelbaugh said it is possible that future rates will be less, depending on how much the fund is used.

Employers alone pay into the state unemployment benefits trust fund, which also is overseen by the Employment Department.

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The first phase of the agency’s modernization of its computer system, which gets underway in July, will account for employer payroll taxes for unemployment and family leave benefits, and employee contributions for family leave. (Employers are allowed to pay employee shares as a benefit.)

Oregon has had a program of family leave since 1991, though it has been largely unpaid except as employers may have discretionary funds. The Legislature approved a program for paid leave in 2019, and last year, lawmakers extended the original deadlines for implementation.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 10 states and Washington, D.C., have or are starting a program for paid family leave.

Madden Humelbaugh said Oregon’s program, unlike others, will cover survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, harassment and stalking under “safe leave.”

“With this contributions rate, we will be able to provide paid leave for people at a critical moment in their life when it’s not safe for them to be at work,” she said.