Yesterday, the Washington, D.C., City Council passed groundbreaking legislation that would create one of the most generous paid family and medical leave programs in the United States.
The Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016 (Bill 21-415), would provide private-sector employees eight weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. It would also provide two weeks of sick leave for the employee’s own illness and six weeks of paid leave to care for a family member. The Act would apply to all private employers in Washington, DC, regardless of size. It also covers all employees who spend at least 50% of their working time in DC, regardless of the number of hours they work each year, and will also dramatically expand the number of employees entitled to family and medical leave benefits.
Paid leave benefits will be made available through a public fund administered by the DC government and funded by a payroll tax equal to 0.62% of each covered employee’s annual wages.
This legislation was controversial since critics argued that the law will primarily benefit Maryland and Virginia residents who work in DC, while causing businesses to seek to move employees into their Maryland and Virginia offices. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has long opposed the bill, released a statement confirming that she would not sign the legislation but did not indicate whether she would veto it. Should the mayor veto the bill, the council’s vote margin is enough to override it. If the bill becomes law, it would be sent to Congress for approval, like all District laws.
It will be several years before the payroll tax authorized by the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016 will be assessed against employers and even longer until covered employees will be able to claim benefits.