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Seattle Paid Family Leave


By Jim Szymanski

Communications Director


The prospect of required paid family leave is a benefit on the horizon for approval by the Seattle City Council.

Nothing concrete has yet come forward. But council members have been holding informal meetings in recent weeks to gauge reaction and to survey the extent of such a benefit among businesses across Seattle.

The prospect bears watching as the Washington Retail Association is doing. WRA, in fact, is opposed to the idea. Such a benefit is unnecessary and will have a disproportionate financial impact on small businesses that threatens jobs and economic development in Washington State.

First of all, the state Legislature is considering bills to require such a benefit. WRA also opposes those bills for several reasons.

Current law already allows employees leave opportunities. Employees in firms of 50 or more employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave for bonding with a new child, caring for a sick family member or for their own serious illness. Employees are guaranteed jobs when they return to work. Many employees have paid leave through their employers, generally much better than what the state would mandate.

Workers who take leave add to business costs. Companies have to hire and train temporary employees or pay existing employees overtime to make up for the loss of the employee on leave. Company unemployment insurance rates rise when non-returning employees file for benefits after their leave expires, or temporary employees file for benefits.

These financial burdens are especially heavy on small businesses that typically have much narrower margins to absorb new financial impacts.

One final negative impact is how a government mandate such as paid family leave compromises businesses that attract employees based on an entire package of salary and benefits. Government mandates use up limited resources that could have been used for other employee benefits.

For larger companies with multiple locations in several cities, they face the prospect of offering an unfair patchwork of different benefits when individual cities approve benefits unavailable across all store locations.

In summary, businesses, in general, need more flexibility to properly adjust to changing family needs than a one-size-fits-all government-imposed mandate such as that under consideration by Seattle city government. To join us in opposing any such ordinance, contact John Engber here

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