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Virginia lawmakers eye paid family leave

RICHMOND, Va. — Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that would provide Virginia workers up to three months of paid family and medical leave every year.

The bills would create a paid leave program, effective Jan. 1, 2022, for workers who are new parents, family of active duty military personnel, have serious medical conditions, or care for family members with serious medical conditions.

Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-Prince William, sponsor of House Bill 2120, made her case for paid family and medical leave in Virginia at a press conference Monday.

“Spending time with a dying relative, giving birth to a child, caring for a sick parent, these should not be privileges reserved just for wealthy Virginians,” Carroll Foy said. “Hard-working, middle-class Virginians deserve to spend time with their families like everyone else does.”

Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Herndon, sponsor of an identical bill in the Senate, spoke about the economic benefits of paid leave for businesses.

“Paid leave programs have been shown to benefit businesses, making it more likely that employees will return to work, ready to work, rather than struggling financially,” Boysko said.

Under the paid leave program workers would be eligible to receive up to 70 percent of their average weekly wage, without exceeding $850 per week. Self-employed workers would also be provided the option of participating in the program.

The maximum combined amount of paid leave per year for qualifying workers would be 12 weeks.

In order to qualify for paid leave benefits, an employee would need to meet the administrative requirements in the bill, the requirements laid out in the state’s benefit eligibility conditions, and submit an application to the Virginia Employment Commission.

Funding for the proposed program would be provided by a family and medical leave insurance fund established by the Commission and financed through payroll taxes.

Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, is sponsoring a related bill that would provide a parental leave tax credit to small businesses that would begin in 2021. SB 1376 aims to create an income tax credit for a portion of the salary or wages paid by small businesses to full-time employees while on leave for the birth or adoption of a child.

The bill requires small businesses to provide full-time employees with at least eight weeks of paid parental leave.

In June, Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order offering eight weeks of leave at full pay to state employees for the birth or adoption of a child.

Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, introduced HB 2234 last week to increase the amount of paid parental leave for state employees to 12 weeks.

During the press conference, advocates for paid family leave spoke about the importance of the proposed legislation for working families in Virginia. Carroll Foy shared a personal account of the hardship she experienced in the absence of paid leave.

“I’m standing here as a middle-class, working mother, and I implore all Virginians to support this,” Carroll Foy said. “It’s not only an economic issue. It is a human rights issue.”

By Daniel Berti

Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.

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