Oregon prepares for the launch of a new paid leave program for employees

Oregon workers will see paycheck deductions in January for a new state program that will provide paid leave to employees.

The program, called Paid Leave Oregon, will give employees paid time off for a serious illness or injury, the birth or adoption of a child, caring for a seriously ill family member or dealing with the aftermath of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or harassment.

Oregon will be the 12th state in the nation with paid family and medical leave for workers, due to a bill the Legislature passed in 2019. State officials say Oregon’s program will be the only one to include leave for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment or stalking. 

“People can actually take care of their families and their safety and not have to choose” between earning money and taking care of their well-being, Karen Madden Humelbaugh, director of Paid Leave Oregon, said in an interview.

Hundreds of thousands of employees will benefit from the program which will be paid for by workers and employers. Here’s how it works: Paycheck deductions will start in January to fund the trust. Workers can apply for leave benefits starting in September 2023. 

Employers and employees will fund Paid Leave Oregon with a combined total contribution of 1% of gross payroll. Employees will pay 60% and large employers with 25 or more employees will contribute the remaining 40%. 

For an employee who makes $50,000 in annual gross wages, the worker’s share will be $300 annually and the employer will contribute $200. 

Employers with fewer than 25 employees will not be required to contribute, but their workers will still pay into the program and will be eligible for benefits.

Workers will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave annually, or 14 weeks for pregnancy-related medical leave. Part-time employees, or those with multiple jobs, are eligible.

The program will pay benefits on a sliding scale, based on how much employees make. Many low-income Oregonians will be eligible for all their paychecks while on paid leave. For example, Oregonians making minimum wage will receive 100% of their regular pay while on paid leave. 

For a high-income Oregonian, it’s a smaller share. For example, someone earning $2,555.78 a week would get $1,469.78 a week in paid leave. 

Most employees are covered, with the exception of tribal governments, independent contractors, and self-employed business owners. However, they can choose to participate in the program.

Federal government employees are not eligible.

Employers that offer equivalent paid leave benefits can apply to opt out of the state’s program.

Details are outlined on a new webpage.

“Paid Leave Oregon is here to support employers so they can help their employees prepare for this new program,” Madden said. “We are excited to share all of these new resources with employers, who we know are still learning about the program and how it will help Oregonians.”

Paid Leave Oregon will administer the program, pay employees when they are on leave and determine their eligibility for benefits. Next year, the program will reach out to employees to spread information about the program.

For more information

The state has a webpage with resources for employers and employees. It includes a notice that employers are required to post, a guidebook and other information for employees.

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Ben Botkin - Oregon Capital Chronicle

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. He has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report. Botkin has won multiple journalism awards for his investigative and enterprise reporting, including on education, state budgets and criminal justice.