Senate approves Robinson bill to expand paid family and medical leave coverage

The Senate today approved legislation that would expand paid family and medical leave coverage to Washington families by broadening the definition of family member.

“We want this benefit to work for modern families,” said Sen. June Robinson (D-Everett), the sponsor of SB 5097. “Paid Family and Medical Leave will better serve everyone in our state if it accommodates close caretaking relationships for our neighbors. This bill today closes gaps in coverage and expands access to support, which is especially important during a pandemic that has upended so many lives.”

Since its initial passage in 2017 and its implementation in 2020, the Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program has served nearly 100,000 Washington workers and kept millions of dollars flowing through the economy as families have received leave benefits. It provides up to 18 weeks of paid family and medical leave for workers to: recover from a serious medical condition; care for a family member experiencing a serious medical condition; bond with a child brought into a family through birth, adoption, or foster placement; or support military family members preparing for or returning from deployment.

SB 5097 expands the definition of family member, for the purposes of family leave, to include anyone with a relationship that creates an expectation and actual dependence on care. Because only 11% of PFML usage in 2020 was for caring for a family member, this change has a small fiscal impact but a huge, positive impact on equitable access to PFML coverage.

“This bill recognizes that not every family looks alike,” Robinson said. “For many of our neighbors – especially in the LGBTQ community or in communities of color – more Washingtonians are living in diverse, chosen and inter-generational families. This is about honoring all families and expanding equitable access to PFML coverage no matter what.”