October 13, 2017
Amid questions over adequate revenue to fund benefits, the Washington, D.C. City Council is considering amendments to its paid family leave law that could enable employers who provide similar benefits to largely opt-out of the program. The current D.C. paid leave law requires employers to offer eight weeks of paid family leave, six weeks of paid leave to care for sick family members, and two weeks of personal sick leave. The program is funded, for now, by a 0.62 percent payroll tax on employers beginning in July 2019, with paid leave benefits beginning July 2020. However, a number of city council members who support the leave law have introduced five bills that would alter the structure and funding of the program. One bill would lower the payroll tax and allow businesses with existing leave programs to opt out of the city-run program. Other bills would set a legal requirement that leave be offered, but let employers find their own ways to pay for it. Council member Elissa Silverman, who co-wrote the paid leave law, said there may be room for tweaks to the program and said she could support a provision to allow certain employers with paid leave programs to opt out and pay a fee, as is allowed in New Jersey and California. Although it is not clear which amendments will be adopted, some changes are possible as the city council must appropriate funding to begin implementing the program in 2018.