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May 15, 2007
Washington Approves Paid Family Leave Legislation

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has signed legislation that creates a program that will provide paid family leave to eligible employees.

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The state's family leave insurance program, which will begin in October 2009, will offer up to 5 weeks of benefits per year for parents to bond with a new child (a newborn or adopted).

The program will provide a $250 weekly benefit for an individual who regularly works 35 hours or more per week. Benefits for individuals who regularly work less than 35 hours per week will be prorated.

Individuals who work 35 hours or more per week must take at least 8 hours of family leave in a week to be eligible for benefits. The benefit for those who take less than 35 hours of family leave in a week will be calculated at .025 times the maximum weekly benefit times the number of hours of family leave taken in the week.

The law also provides job protection for employees at companies with more than 25 employees. To qualify for job protection, the individual must be employed for at least twelve months by the employer, and for at least one thousand two hundred fifty hours of service with that employer during the previous twelve-month period.

The state still hasn't decided how it is going to pay for the program and will set up a task force to investigate the possibilities.

In 2004, California became the first state to provide paid time off for workers to provide care for a child, spouse, parent, or domestic partner with a serious health condition, or to bond with a new child. The program is funded entirely by workers' contributions.

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