Virginia Senate advances bill to give workers 12 weeks of paid family leave

Senate Bill 373 and House Bill 737 would adopt the model used for unemployment insurance to cover the cost of up to 12 weeks of paid leave in a year. This time could be used to adjust to caring for a new child, to care for a sick family member, or to deal with a personal health condition. (Photo via Shutterstock)

By Isabel Soisson

January 30, 2024

Virginia Democrats are using the 2024 legislative session to once again push for paid medical and family leave.

Introduced by Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax), and Del. Briana Sewell (D-Prince William), Senate Bill (SB) 373 and House Bill (HB) 737 would adopt the model used for unemployment insurance to cover the costs of up to 12 weeks of leave in a year for Virginia workers. This time could be used to adjust to caring for a new child, to care for a sick family member, or to deal with a personal health condition.

The Family and Medical Leave Act, a piece of federal legislation, requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide 12 weeks of leave for similar reasons, but it doesn’t require that those workers be paid during that time. SB 373 and HB 737 would make it so workers would receive 80% of their pay during leaves that meet the criteria listed above.

The program would be funded by contributions from both employers and employees. Both lawmakers estimate that the cost would equal about 0.5% of a worker’s paycheck.

The proposed legislation could be life-changing for many Virginians.

“For far too long, people have been forced to make the incredibly difficult decision of caring for someone they love or skipping a paycheck,” Sen. Boysko said during a press conference held to discuss the proposal on Monday. “Women in particular are hard hit by this challenge because we also often are the de facto caregivers for our families and for our loved ones.”

As of Monday afternoon, SB 373 and HB 737 have both advanced from committee entirely along party lines, with all Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans voting against the bills.

During the 2023 legislative session, Virginia Republicans succeeded in killing similar legislation in the House. In order to pass these bills this year, Democrats will need to gain the approval of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, as well, who has so far remained silent on both bills.

SB 373 and HB 737 aren’t the only pieces of legislation aimed at guaranteeing workers more paid leave that have been introduced this year.

Delegate Jeion A. Ward (D-Hampton) introduced House Bill (HB) 348 earlier this month. The legislation would expand provisions of the state code that currently requires one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked for home health workers to cover all employees of private employers and state and local governments, as well.

Ward’s bill would also allow employees who are compensated on a fee-for-service basis, meaning they are paid per service performed, to accrue paid sick leave in accordance with regulations adopted by the Commissioner of Labor and Industry. Employees that transfer to a separate division or location would also remain entitled to previously accrued paid sick leave, and employees would retain that accrued sick leave even when they get a new job.

Under the bill, employees would be able to use their paid sick leave for physical or mental illness, to take care of a family member, or for services or relocation due to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

CATEGORIES: LOCAL HISTORY | POLITICS

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