Virginia state senator files bill that would provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave

The first bill prefiled for the 2022 Virginia Legislative Session could secure up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, benefitting caregivers across the commonwealth. 

 

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Senate bill 1, which Sen. Jennifer B. Boysko (D – Herndon) introduced on Monday, would require the Virginia Employment Commission to helm the benefit program. House Democrats attempted to pass a similar bill in the 2021 session, but the bill died in Appropriations. Caregivers on leave would receive up to 80% of their weekly wage, starting two weeks after filing a claim. Funding for the program would come from the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Trust Fund.

 

 

The bill lists the eligibility requirements for paid leave:

“1. Because of birth, adoption, or placement through foster care, is caring for a new child during the first year after the birth, adoption, or placement of that child;

2. Is caring for a family member with a serious health condition;

3. Has a serious health condition that makes the covered individual unable to perform the functions of the position of such individual’s employment;

4. Is caring for a covered service member who is the covered individual’s next of kin or other family member; or

5. Is eligible for qualifying exigency leave arising out of the fact that a family member of the covered individual is on active duty, or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty, in the Armed Forces.”

Paid family leave has been widely supported across the state. A recent poll found 73% of Virginians said they’d support a paid family leave program.

If this bill passes, Virginia would join nine other states and the District of Columbia in establishing a state-based paid leave program. The United States is currently the only wealthy country without any federal paid leave. By comparison, paid leave in Britain is 39 weeks, 52 weeks in Japan, and at least 82 weeks in Estonia.

 

Image: Kaiser Family Foundation

 

The benefits of paid family leave, detailed in a November 2021 report from the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF), include an increased care workforce. The report said: 

“Analyses from states provide empirical evidence to show that paid family and medical leave increases women and caregivers’ levels of workforce participation significantly. An analysis of the labor force in California before and after the state’s paid family leave program went into effect found that working caregivers increased their labor force participation by 14 percent over an eight year period.”

Additionally, the report advocated for the moral benefits of paid leave: 

“Access to family caregiving is a matter of basic dignity, health and even life for older adults and people with disabilities, especially during a pandemic in which institutional care settings have been one of the highest-risk sources of disease transmission.”

NPWF estimates that if the care workforce in Virginia increased 10% by 2030, and paid leave were in place, there would be over 183,000 more caregivers in the commonwealth.