PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Gov. Kate Brown signed into law Oregon’s Paid Family Medical Leave bill, one of the most progressive family leave laws in the country.
Under the new law, Oregon workers will get up to 12 weeks paid time off for various family reasons — a new baby, a newly adopted or foster child and recovering from illness. Victims of domestic violence also get paid time off and low-income workers are guaranteed 100% of their wages.
“We are certainly behind the 8-ball on this as a nation,” Brown said in remarks just before signing the bill into law. “The fact remains that Germany passed paid maternity leave not in 2003, not in 1983 but in 1883.”
In a statement she said, “Oregon families no longer need to make the difficult choice between paying the rent and staying home with their newborn, or between chemotherapy and keeping food on the table.”
Megan McMillan was at the bill signing with her 2-month-old son Charlie. Under the current law, only she was able to take a good chunk of paid family leave time to care for her newborn, thanks to her employer.
“I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m on paid parental leave right now,” she said. “There are a lot of people who are not in the same boat as me. My husband is one of them. With both of our children he only got one week of leave before he had to go back to work.”
The governor signed the bill in front of a number of working mothers and children at Bora Architects in Portland, a firm that already implemented its own paid leave policy.
Amy Donohue, a principal with Bora Architects, said this law will be beneficial to businesses as well as families.
“I think that our industry, in particular, struggles with keeping women in leadership positions, keeping them in the profession long enough to sort of step up into those leadership positions,” Donohue said. “So this was one way in supporting women directly.”
She added it costs them “2-and-a-half times of someone’s annual salary to get that person up to the same experience level, so it’s a modest investment to give paid family leave in lieu of needing to go hire someone,” Donohue said.
The owner of Peoria Gardens, Inc. in Albany said he’s also on board with this new law. Ben Verhoeven said it benefits the economy as a whole to provide this leave for employees.
“We can recruit and retain as a state the best possible employees,” Verhoeven said. “I also, frankly, just think it’s the right thing to do.”
How it is funded
Both employees and employers will start contributing a small portion of their payroll to the state in order to fund this program, said Andrea Paluso, the executive director of Family Forward.
Lili Hoag from Family Forward explained the details of the way this program is funded:
“Contributions will be capped at 1% of payroll. All employees (regardless of employer size) will pay 60% of that up to 1% of payroll. Employers with 25 or more employees will pay 40% of the up to 1% of payroll. Employers with less than 25 employees do not have to pay into the system (though they can opt-in and will have access to grants if they do). All employees will have access to paid family and medical leave regardless of the size of their employer. The employers with less than 25 employees won’t pay into the system but their employees will still have access to the wage replacement and job protection.”
Paluso said the program will work in a similar fashion as Social Security or unemployment insurance. The resources will get pooled by the state and when someone has a qualifying reason they’ll apply to the state.
Paycheck contributions will start in 2022 and benefits will begin the following year.