PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Starting January 1, 2023, Oregonians will notice a new small amount of money coming out of their paychecks. 

It’s the contribution employees are required to make to support the new Paid Leave Oregon program, which begins in 2023. The program was passed by lawmakers in 2019 and is about to go into effect. 

Although contributions to the program begin January 1, employees will not be able to take advantage of the paid leave benefits until September 2023. This will allow the plan to accumulate funds that can be paid out when an employee needs to take leave. 

Ahead of the contribution period starting, Paid Leave Oregon is asking employers to alert their staff to the coming changes and the benefits that will soon be available to them. 

Paid Leave Oregon will allow employees in the state to take up to 12 weeks off from work in a year. In some pregnancy-related situations, an employee may be able to take up to an additional four weeks off, for a total of 16 weeks. 

Employees can take weeks at a time or a single day if they need it. The leave can be used for family events – things like the birth of a child, adoption, or caring for a family member with a serious injury or illness; medical leave – to care for yourself when you have a serious illness or injury; or safe leave – for survivors of sexual assaults, domestic violence, harassment or stalking.

What’s different about Paid Leave Oregon from other leave programs is that employees will continue to get paid. 

“This is actually paid leave and so, for many of us when we’ve taken FMLA or some sort of other leave along the way, like during the birth of a child, sometimes that’s unpaid, but we get our job protected. But in the case of paid leave, it’s actually paid,” explained Paid Leave Oregon Director Karen Humelbaugh. 

The program’s safe leave is another unique aspect. Humelbaugh believes Oregon is the first state to offer a paid leave program for survivors of sexual assaults and domestic violence. 

Minimum wage workers will receive 100% of their average wage while on leave. People who make more than minimum wage will receive benefits based on a sliding scale. Hummelbaugh said some people will not receive the full amount of their job’s wage. 

Paid Leave Oregon plans to have a benefits calculator posted on its website in the next few months. 

Most employees in Oregon will be covered, with the exception of federal government employees. 

Tribal governments, self-employed business owners and independent contractors will not automatically be included in the program, but can opt-in by notifying the Paid Leave program. 

Anyone who is eligible cannot opt-out to stop the contributions from coming out of their paychecks. 

The contribution system works slightly differently for small employers and large employers. Large employers who have 25 or more employees will be required to make a total contribution of 1% of gross payroll. Employees will pay 60% and large employers will pay 40% of the 1% contribution rate. 

For example, if an employee makes $5,000, the employee will pay $30 and the employer will pay $20. 

A small employer, one with fewer than 25 employees, is not required to pick up 40% of the 1% contribution rate. However, their employees are still required to pay 60% of the 1% contribution rate. 

The benefits an employee is eligible for are the same whether they work for a small or large employer. 

“For the individual worker, if you are eligible for benefits, you’d still receive the full amount that any would be receiving. You don’t receive a lesser amount. You would still get the full amount,” Humelbaugh said. 

Paid Leave Oregon has a tool kit and fact sheets posted on its website now to inform employers on how the contribution system will work. Humelbaugh suggests employers begin informing their employees of the changes now, before the start of the year. 

The program also has more information online about how Paid Leave Oregon compares to other programs like the Oregon Family Leave Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, and Oregon Sick Leave. 

Paid Leave Oregon was enacted by the passage of House Bill 2005. As it’s written, the bill requires the state to re-evaluate its contribution rate every year. If that contribution amount results in a surplus in the trust fund that’s used to pay out benefits, state officials could decide to lower the rate in future years.