PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — We’re still over a year away from the Oregon Employment Department rolling out its paid leave program but this week the state launched the paid leave website, which answers many basic questions.

The new program, Paid Leave Oregon, will cover wages when employees need time off for family, medical or safety reasons. It covers leave for the birth or adoption of a child, a serious illness or injury, taking care of a seriously ill family member and for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or harassment.

The program’s director, Karen Humelbaugh, hopes it will ease the burden on people during some of life’s most difficult moments.

“It’s really important that they’re able to get themselves, their children safe and in a place where they can start moving on with the rest of their life and that’s not something you can do if you don’t have paid leave time. Some of us have paid time off as part of our regular agreements with our employer, but most people don’t, and so it’s important that we’re leveling that playing field, particularly for these survivors,” she said.

Humelbaugh says businesses with more than 25 employees will be required to pay into the state’s paid leave trust unless the business offers employees a paid leave program that’s equivalent or better.

“They’ll have to show the state through an application process that it is truly equal to or better than the state plan. It would have to cover all three leave types, it would have to cover the same amount of time, you as an individual couldn’t pay more into it than you would pay into the trust. A lot of companies think that they’ve got a really great plan, but maybe it doesn’t cover safe leave, or maybe it’s only for 10 weeks and not 12,” she said.

Contributions will be deducted from employee paychecks beginning Jan. 1, 2023 and benefit payments will start Sept 3.

The Oregon Employment Department, which oversees the paid leave trust, set 1% of wages as the cap for contributions — 60% will be paid by the individual worker and 40% will be paid by the business.

“So just to give a simple math example, if you earn $1,000 in wages, the employee would pay $6 and the employer would pay $4,” Humelbaugh said.

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