OLYMPIA – After months of tense negotiations, the Washington State Legislature passed legislation establishing a new statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program late tonight.

Senate Bill 5975 creates a paid family and medical leave insurance program that is funded by premiums paid by both employers and employees, and allows employer voluntary plans. Under this legislation, employees can take off up to 12 weeks for the birth of a child, to take care of a family member who is suffering a serious medical condition, or if the employee suffers from a non-work-related illness or injury.

“No one should ever have to choose between taking care of a loved one and keeping food on the dinner table” said Sen. Steve Conway, D-South Tacoma and co-sponsor of SB 5975. “With this bill, we establish a paid family leave law that truly delivers for working families and lets them live with a sense of security when it comes to their wellbeing.”

The culmination of more than a decade of work by legislators and advocates, Senate Bill 5975 is the most worker-friendly paid family and medical leave program in the nation.

“Paid family leave is truly the third peg of the stool when it comes to income security,” added Conway. “We’ve instituted unemployment and workplace injury protections, and now we will provide a paid family leave law so people are protected when they have to take time off work to tend to personal injuries or a sick family member.”

SB 5975 exempts businesses that employ fewer than 50 employees from having to pay the employer share of the premium but allows them to opt in if they choose.