Oregon paid leave ready to launch

By DON McINTOSH

Oregon is about to launch its state-administered paid leave program. Employers will begin collecting payroll taxes Jan. 1, 2023, and benefits will become available to workers starting September 2023.

Known by the straightforward name of Paid Leave Oregon, the program will allow employees to take paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child, for serious illness or injury, for taking care of a seriously ill family member, and to recover from domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or harassment. The program will cover up to 12 paid weeks away from work, with an additional two weeks for pregnancy-related conditions. The program replaces 100% of wages for the lowest income workers, and a gradually smaller percentage as income goes up. 

Benefits will be funded by a payroll tax—0.6% deducted from workers pay, plus an additional 0.4% paid by employers with 25 or more employees. Small employers won’t be required to contribute, but can choose to. 

All Oregon workers who earn at least $1,000 in a year and pay into the program will be eligible for coverage —except federal employees, independent contractors and employees of tribal governments.

Employers will also be required to put up a Paid Leave Oregon poster at each work site by Jan. 1, and share it electronically or by mail with any remote workers. 

The program was passed into law in 2019 by the Oregon Legislature as HB 2005.

Under that legislation, the benefit phase of the rollout was supposed to have started in January 2023, but administrators at Oregon Employment Department fell behind and failed to meet that timeline. The department estimated that Oregon workers will miss out on around $453 million in benefits because of that nine-month delay.

Ten other states plus Washington D.C. now offer some sort of paid leave program.

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