New Babies Mean New Benefits in 2020

Use Washington's new paid family and medical leave program to take care of children

The arrival of fall is one more signal that we are close to seeing Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program become reality—in about two and half months!

Anticipation from those expecting the arrival of a new child in their home must be high. With paid leave, parents can take time off work to be with their new child without losing their income.

Washington’s legislature passed paid family and medical leave in 2017 after a lot of work from worker and family advocates, the business community and lawmakers. The program will provide 12 to 18 weeks of paid leave to:

  • Care for a newborn or newly placed adopted or foster child
  • Care for an ailing parent or other family member
  • Recover from your own serious health condition
  • Cope with a family member’s military service

This post will answer frequently asked questions about PFML for new parents. In upcoming posts, we’ll discuss using paid leave for other kinds of family care or serious health conditions.

Your weekly benefit through paid family and medical leave will scale depending on your current wages, up to $1000 per week. For example, someone who usually makes $540 a week before taxes and other deductions will receive a benefit of about $486 per week. Someone who usually makes $1,000 per week will receive about $770.

Scenario 1: Jack and Steve:

The adoption agency has just informed Jack and Steve that a teenage mom has just given birth to a healthy boy and has chosen them to be the parents.

Overjoyed, Jack and Steve rush to get the baby room ready, friends and family begin to gift them baby gear and they decide which of the two will take off work to care for their new bundle of joy during his first months of life. They also let their employers know they’ll need to take parental leave starting in two weeks.

Jack works full-time for a large company and his job is secure. He can access 12 weeks from the paid family leave program and use two weeks of vacation for a total of 14 weeks. Steve has only been at his current job working part-time at a book store for eight months. Unlike in Jack’s case, Steve’s employer is not required by law to hold his job for him, but after discussing it, his supervisor agrees that she wants to keep her trained employee on staff.

Steve and Jack decide that they will both take the first two weeks off when their little one first comes home, then Steve will return to work, saving his other 10 weeks of leave for when Jack goes back to his job. This will allow Jack to “pass the torch” to Steve. The couple will have a total of 24 weeks of time with their child. This way, their new baby will bond individually with each parent and have someone to take him to all his check-ups and vaccines. Jack and Steve will be also save thousands of dollars on infant child care.

Scenario 2: Janet

Janet is a single mom about to have her second child. She works for a local non-profit organization with fewer than 50 employees, which means her employer is not required to hold her job. However, her employer pays Janet’s portion of the PFML premium and has told Janet that she will always have a job.

At her prenatal visit, her doctor discovers Janet’s blood pressure has spiked and tells her she’ll have to take leave right away. Janet lets her supervisor know and applies for PFML benefits.

Two weeks later, she gives birth by C-section. Because of the pregnancy-related complications, Janet qualifies for 18 weeks of combined medical and family leave. Janet’s doctor says she’ll need care while she recovers from surgery, so her sister Linda can also take a few weeks of paid family leave to help out. With the extra time and support, Janet is able to regain her physical and emotional strength, successfully establish breastfeeding, and return to work confident that she is ready and her baby is thriving.

For women, having support from family and friends and from programs like paid family and medical leave is important. It allows women who give birth to a child to heal faster, allowing them to go back to work sooner, which could help her chances for promotions.

Additional facts:

  • To qualify for leave in 2020, you must work at least 820 hours in 2019 – or about 17 hours per week
  • You’ll apply for benefits directly from the state at this website or on the phone
  • You can start benefits right away for bonding with a new child, but there is a one week waiting period for medical leave (during which you can use sick leave or other paid time off from your employer)
  • You can only use PFML for periods of 8 hours or more in a week
  • Your employer can (but is not required to) supplement your benefit to your full wage
  • You do not have to take all the leave at once

 

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