As 2020 ushers in a new decade, it brings with it many changes to paid family and medical leave laws throughout the U.S.—a cause for celebration for workers and their families. Washington State’s paid family and medical leave program officially went live on January 1. Workers can now receive benefits for up to 12 weeks for medical leave or family leave, up to a total of 16 weeks of benefits in a 52-week period. Nearly all employees in the state are covered, including both public and private sector workers, and self-employed workers can opt in to coverage.
We applaud Governor Brown, who earlier this week signed into law a measure expanding California’s paid family leave program to include benefits for military families dealing with the impact of foreign deployment. All too often, when it comes to paid leave, our policies fail to address the specific needs of military families. Having a loved one deployed is stressful enough without having to worry about your family’s economic security. We are proud to have championed this important law, alongside partners like the National Military Family Association and the California Work & Family Coalition.
Paid family leave for military families dealing with deployment ensures that they can spend time with their loved one before deployment or during temporary rest and recuperation leave; make arrangements for the care of their loved one’s child or parent; attend official military events or support programs; or attend to other needs arising from their loved one’s deployment.
Given the sacrifices these families make for our nation, these protections should be national policy. They aren’t yet.
Here’s a brief overview of where things stand and what we need to do to protect our military families.
- With this addition, California becomes the fourth state to enact a law to provide benefits for deployment-related needs, which will begin in 2021. New York already provides paid benefits for deployment-related needs and will be joined by Washington State and Massachusetts when their programs begin in 2020 and 2021 respectively. In New York and Massachusetts this leave is (or will be) job protected and Massachusetts will allow benefits in a broader range of situations, including for domestic service.
- Federally, the Family and Medical Leave Act has provided job-protected unpaid leave for deployment-related needs for the last decade, though many military families are excluded from coverage because of the law’s restrictive eligibility criteria.
- The leading federal paid family and medical leave proposal, the FAMILY Act, would provide paid benefits for deployment-related needs (as well as other important health and family needs).