WASHINGTON — Some members of the D.C. Council say they want the nation’s capital to catch up with other first world countries when it comes to guaranteeing paid family leave to workers.

Today, they are introducing the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015. If passed, it would create a system for D.C. workers to receive up to 16 weeks of paid leave for a major life event such as birth or adoption of a child or caring for a sick or injured family member.

Employers would pay into a city-managed fund on a per-employee basis. Benefits would equal 100 percent of average weekly wages up to $1,000 a week and then 50 percent of average earnings above that amount, up to a maximum benefit of $3,000 a week.

The bill was co-written by councilmembers David Grosso and Elissa Silverman.

“In D.C. we have been a leader on paid sick days, on raising the minimum wage, and providing paid family leave for government employees,” Silverman says.

“With this legislation, we once again position D.C. as a national leader on policies that bolster our families, workers, and employers.”

Silverman points out that mandatory paid family leave is something “almost every industrial country in the world does except for the United States.”

“It’s time for the U.S. to rectify that,” she says. “It’s a benefit not only for workers who are allowed to take time to either address a serious illness of a mom or dad that can happen without planning… or your own medical needs, or if you have a new child.”

It would also give low wage workers who can’t always afford to take time off “the chance to take a leave, bond with their child, spend quality time with their child at the most important time.”

“A lot of low wage workers have to choose between just remaining financially stable or taking care of their family, and that’s not a choice that they should have to make, and that’s not a choice that other countries around the world ask their citizens to make.”

The bill would also give employers the chance to be able to offer employees that type of leave, Silverman says, which is not always possible, especially for smaller businesses.

In response to D.C. Chamber of Commerce concerns that the bill would make D.C. “dangerously uncompetitive,” Silverman says she strongly disagrees.

“We see examples almost every week now of employers moving toward paid family leave policies,” she says, pointing to a recent move by Hilton Hotels to expand their parental leave.

And, if the proposed leave policies are passed, “we are going to attract the best workers, and we are going to have the most productive workers because… if you can give people the time and the ability to address the needs of their family, they’ll be more loyal workers and more productive workers and I think that’s going to help the District economy.”

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