On Tuesday, October 6, 2015 Councilman David Grosso (I) At-Large and Councilwoman Elissa Silverman (I) At-Large introduced Bill 21-0415 the Universal Paid Medical Leave Act of 2015. The legislation as introduced would amend the DC Family Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA) and establish a paid family medical leave program in the District of Columbia.

(1) How much leave would be provided?

The bill as introduced would provide for up to 16 weeks of paid family medical leave per 12 month period. In addition the leave may be taken in blocks or in one continuous 16 week period.

(2) Who would be eligible for the leave?

The bill would cover any individual working for a company based in the District of Columbia. In addition it would also cover individuals working for companies who are based outside of the District, but who are licensed to do business in the District. It would also cover individuals of non District based employers who spend at least 50% of their time working within the District of Columbia.

The program would also apply to District Government Employees, self employed individuals and District residents who work for non District based employers. In addition, the law would apply for individuals working for companies not based in the District who spend part of their time in the District, but who don't spend at least 50% of their time in another jurisdiction.

(3) How would the program be implemented?

The program would be run by the District government. To fund the program, the District will impose a 1% payroll tax on all District based employers. In addition, they will also impose a 1% tax on all non District based employers for all employees who qualify for the program.

For District residents whose companies are not required to pay into the fund, they will be required to pay a 1% income tax to the government fund the program. For self employed individuals, they will also be required to pay a 1% tax on their adjusted gross income.

(4) How will individuals access the leave?

Individuals may use the leave to take care of a new born child (both mothers and fathers). In addition, one may also access the leave to take care of a sick child, spouse or parent. In addition, individuals who adopt children may also qualify for the program. To access the leave, individuals must file paperwork with the District agency designated to implement the program. Upon receiving approval from the agency the individual will have access to the designated amount of time. Once approved the company must allow the individual to take the designated amount of leave and hold their job in place until they return.

Under the rules of the program, individuals will be paid up to $1,000 per week for the 16 week period to make up for lost income. For individuals who make more than $1,000 a week they will receive 50% of their salary for a maximum of $3,000 a week.

Currently, the legislation is in the DC City Council's Committee of the Whole. Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) has announced that he will hold three hearings on the legislation. The first hearing will be in early December and will be by invite only. The hearing will be for trade organizations, business groups and advocacy organizations who are both for and against the legislation. The second hearing which will take place in mid to late January will be for government agencies and policy experts and again will be invite only. The last hearing, which hasn't been scheduled will be a public hearing for all parties who are interested in testifying. It will however be closed to groups who have previously provided testimony on the legislation.

At the current time ABC of Metro Washington is expecting to provide testimony during the December hearing and is encouraging members to provide written testimony, letters and comments for the final hearing in the early spring. Upon the completion of the hearings, the Council will provide a draft committee print to all groups who provided testimony and leave it open for comments prior to drafting an amendment in the nature of a substitute before proceeding with the legislation.