Virginia Republicans Block Paid Family and Medical Leave Bill

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By Amie Knowles

February 21, 2023

Republican lawmakers in Virginia blocked an opportunity for paid family and medical leave, which would’ve benefited workers across the commonwealth.

Have you ever picked going to work over taking a sick day, not because of your health, but because of financial necessity? Those days nearly came to an end in Virginia, but Republican lawmakers blocked that opportunity.

Sen. Jennifer Boysko, a Democrat, introduced Senate Bill (SB) 1101, which would’ve created a paid family and medical leave program with benefits through the Virginia Employment Commission. Both employers and employees would contribute to the fund. Starting in 2026, an employee could receive up to 80% of their average weekly wage for up to 12 weeks a year.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it probably is—sort of. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, helping protect millions of working families’ livelihoods since its start in 1993. Under federal law, employees can take time off for specified family and medical reasons, like if they’ve recently welcomed a newborn or a family member has a serious health condition.

One unfortunate issue that many workers face is that, while FMLA protects their position at work, it doesn’t guarantee pay during the employee’s absence. Currently, it’s up to Virginia employers to offer additional benefits at their discretion, or through select insurance options. 

Several states provide expanded leave rights, including 11 states with paid family and medical leave laws: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington state, as well as Washington, DC. With Boysko’s bill, Virginia would have joined that list.

SB 1101 passed the Democratic-majority Virginia Senate on a party-line vote on Feb. 7, but it died in a Republican-controlled House of Delegates special subcommittee on Feb. 16. With the subcommittee stacked in Republicans’ favor, all four GOP delegates voted against the bill, and the two Democrats voted for it. 

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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