Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt
Oregon became the eighth state in the country (plus Washington D.C.) to pass a paid family leave law in 2019, and it’s considered the most generous and inclusive in the country with respect to reimbursement and eligibility. Both employers and employees begin making payroll contributions on January 1, 2022, and benefits eligibility begins on January 1, 2023. Even better, the paid leave isn’t just for parents of new babies—there are a variety of reasons an employee can utilize the benefit, including caring for themselves or a relative.
Oregon Paid Family Leave
Similar to programs in other states, eligibility is based on where people work, not live. There are very few—if any—carve outs to the law; anyone who has worked in Oregon and made at least $1,000 in the past year is eligible.
What is the maximum amount of paid maternity leaves I can take?
Oregon’s new, paid family and medical leave program offers 12 weeks of parental leave at a partial salary. This leave is used to bond with a newborn child. Two additional weeks of paid leave may be available for birth mothers with any pregnancy-related condition, or connected to childbirth.
The Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) provided unpaid family leave for workers with employers with more than 25 employees. OFLA covered more purposes than paid family leave. However, Oregon’s unpaid leave law exempted a good portion of the workforce because Oregon is a small employer state. The new paid leave law will cover all employees, regardless of their employer size.
Employees would be able to take an additional four weeks of unpaid leave under OFLA after the paid leave period has expired under the new state law. This requires a qualified reason under OFLA as well as meeting the employment qualifications under OFLA which are more restrictive than the paid-leave benefit.
Many people, particularly women, need more than 12 week’s leave. It’s a good thing to have the option of extra time even though it’s not paid, and knowing that you can still keep your job.
Who is eligible for paid family leave?
Oregon residents who have earned at least $1,000 the year before are eligible for paid family leave. However, federal employees are not eligible. Eligibility is not determined by residency alone. Oregon residents who work in another state are not eligible.
An employee must have earned approximately $1,000 in Oregon in the last year to be eligible for the paid-leave benefit. This sum can be obtained through multiple jobs with different durations. This is in contrast to other paid leave laws such as FMLA which require that an employee work for a specific amount of time.
What amount will I get paid?
Oregon’s leave program is the most generous. The average week wage (AWW) is used as the benchmark to reimburse. A worker earning less than 65% (or the minimum wage) will be eligible for 100% reimbursement. An employee earning $15 an hour and working 40 hours per week would be eligible for a $600 weekly payment.
You will be reimbursed if you make more money than the minimum wage. The reimbursement is based on a sliding-scale system. You will get 100% of your wages up to 65 percent% of the state’s AWW. After that, 50% for every dollar earned above that. The maximum payment is 120% of the AWW or $1,311 for 2021.
Can I use my paid family leave to care for someone else other than a newborn baby?
Yes, you can take 12 weeks of paid leave to recuperate from an accident, illness or surgery, get treatment for an illness like chemotherapy or dialysis or care for a loved one who is sick.
Oregon’s Paid Family Leave law provides for up to 12 weeks of paid leave to cover “safe leave” to deal with domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault.
Oregon law does not allow family members to take paid leave if they have an exigency related to active duty, call for military service, or care for a loved one who is injured while serving in the military. Employees will still be eligible for unpaid leave under OFLA.
Do I need to use all my leave at once?
No, you do not. The leave is valid for up to 12 months for a foster child, new baby, or adoption. Paid leave benefits can be received for time taken consecutively over weeks or days, but they may also be available for intermittent time off in certain circumstances.
What if I foster, adopt or use a surrogate? Are those qualifying events?
Yes. Fostering, adopting or having a surrogate child is eligible for the 12 weeks of paid Oregon leave.
Who is included with taking time off for family members?
Oregon has many people that are considered family. This includes anyone who is a member of your family or someone who shares a “family-like relationship” with the employee.
How is the benefit paid for?
Oregon’s paid leave benefits are paid by both employee and employer contributions. Employers and employees will each pay a small payroll tax to the insurance fund starting January 1, 2022. Employers will pay 0.4% of employees’ wages to the fund. Employees will pay 0.6% of their wages to fund. This totals 1% of the employee’s total wages.
Can my employer opt out of the program?
Employers with less than 25 employees may opt out of the employer contribution. Small employers can opt to pay the employer contribution. They may be eligible for state grants to offset costs such as replacing employees.
Non-participating employees of employers who have opted out of the program are still eligible and would pay the 0.6% payroll taxes.
Employers of all sizes can opt out of the program if they offer a private program that is comparable or better, which has been approved and regulated by the state.
If my company pays for some portion of leave, can the state law cover the rest up to 100 percent of my salary?
The details of how state benefits and employer benefits mix are still being worked out. Employers would likely be eligible for some state-supported compensation to their existing paid family leave benefits. This is similar to what has happened in other states with paid family leave. Paluso said that employers can add and can cover gaps but must meet minimum requirements.
Is the leave pay taxed?
The details regarding taxes and withholdings in Oregon’s Paid Family Leave program are still being worked out.
What do I have to do to get the money? How am I paid?
The process for submitting a claim under unemployment benefits is similar. An employee who needs to use paid medical and family leave must submit a claim to the Oregon Employment Department. This will verify eligibility and determine the wage substitution. In preparation for their absence, an employee must notify their employer about their claim for paid family or medical leave.
Are there any monetary caps on the benefit annually or during one’s lifetime?
There is no lifetime or annual cap. The reimbursement benefit is capped at 120$ of the state’s Average Worker Wage for a maximum 12 week period. Along with the option to increase to 14 weeks for a pregnancy or childbirth-related problem.
Do I still receive my benefits and job protection while I’m out?
Similar to federal FMLA benefits, Oregon’s paid leave benefits offer job protection and allow employees to retain their benefits.
What about self-employed and freelancers, do they qualify for paid leave?
Yes, there is currently no minimum time required to be enrolled in order to use the benefit. However, the person must pay into the system for at least three years. Paluso states that these issues of the law are still being drafted and are not yet finalized.
How has COVID-19 changed anything on the Oregon Paid Leave plan?
COVID-19 did not change the details or timeline of Oregon’s paid leave program, but it has made clear how important this policy really is.
Leiwant stated that Oregon has done an excellent job of defining family. “And gives enough time to recover from illness. COVID certainly raised awareness of this need. It is important that Oregon will soon be able to offer the benefit.
Where do I go if I have more questions?
Check out Familyforwardaction.org, a nonprofit grassroots advocacy organization focused on paid family leave in Oregon, and the state’s website with paid family leave details.