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Workforce Impacts of Paid Family Medical and Safe Leave in Oregon

Oregon’s Paid Family Medical and Safe Leave policies have a profound influence on the state’s workforce fabric.

For employees, these policies provide essential job protection and financial support during life-changing events such as a new child, a personal illness, or circumstances related to domestic violence. For employers, they impact staffing, budgets, and workforce morale. This article offers an insightful look into the real-world impacts of Oregon’s paid family, medical, and safe leave policies on its workforce. With a keen eye on everything from employee benefit realizations to challenges faced by businesses, this comprehensive analysis sets out to demystify the broad-ranging implications of these vital policies in Oregon.

Understanding Paid Leave in Oregon

Let’s start by delving into the details of paid leave in Oregon. Oregon will now provide job-protected paid leave time for parents bonding with new children and for serious health conditions experienced by workers or their families. It also covers situations where workers need to seek safety due to intimate partner violence or stalking.

It’s important to note that while the paid benefits are new as of September 2023, the situations they cover have long existed in the workforce.

Common Occurrences for Workers

Now, let’s explore how common these occurrences are for workers. For example, about 46,000 women in Oregon between the ages of 15 and 50 gave birth to children in a given year. Moreover, 7 out of 10 of these women had also worked in the past year and 6 out of 10 were still employed.

In 2021, in the western region of the U.S., about 7% of those who had worked in the past week had experienced cancer at some point in their life. This is just one example of the many serious health conditions that could require recurring or inpatient treatment, making it necessary for someone to take paid leave.

In 2016 and 2017, approximately 1.6 million women and nearly 850,000 men in the U.S. lost at least a day of work due to intimate partner violence or stalking. This is not new information, as research shows that working women who experienced domestic violence missed an average of seven to eight paid days at work as early as the 1990s.

Evaluating Current Employer-Provided Leave

Now, let’s shift our focus to the current types of employer-provided leave options that cover workers who might need time away from their jobs for these family or medical reasons.

In 2017 and 2018, approximately two-thirds of U.S. workers had access to some type of employer-provided paid leave. However, a little more than one-fourth of workers only had access to unpaid leave options. Unfortunately, the remaining 5% had no access to any kind of leave time from their employers, be it paid or unpaid.

It is worth mentioning that the coverage of these leave options varies across demographic lines. Younger workers, as well as those with less educational attainment, regardless of age, were less likely to have access to leave time. Similarly, workers of Hispanic or Latino origin also had lower access to leave options.

Consequently, not everyone is getting the protected time off from work they need for these serious medical issues or after welcoming a new child into their family.

The Impact of Paid Family and Medical Leave Programs

We can gain insights into the impact of paid family and medical leave programs by looking at Washington State’s experience. Their program started paying benefits in January 2020 and shares many similarities with Oregon’s paid leave program.

Washington State’s program included paid family leave time for bonding with a child in the first year following birth, adoption, or foster care placement. Additionally, they offered paid leave for a worker’s own or family member’s serious health condition that required inpatient care, ongoing treatment, or posed an imminent danger to someone’s life.

During the first month of the program, Washington saw the highest number of claims filed for benefits, with a total of 24,600 claims. Over time, the average monthly claims for parental leave decreased, while claims for workers’ own serious medical conditions remained roughly the same.

Female workers, workers in their 30s, and workers of Hispanic or Latino origin were among the demographic groups that had a larger share of approved customers for Washington’s paid leave program in proportion to the eligible workforce.

The Situation in Oregon

While we don’t have exact data for Oregon yet, we do have some relevant information. As of May 2023, more than 2,600 employers in Oregon had approved equivalent plans, covering around 327,500 employees. These plans provide paid medical, family, and safe leave benefits that are equal to or greater than the benefits provided by the state program.

Employers offering these equivalent plans are more likely to be larger companies with at least 50 employees. The educational services sector showed a higher concentration of these plans.

Anticipating the Impact in Oregon

When the paid leave Oregon program rolls out, we can expect a significant impact on workers with qualifying events. By using the Washington State program as a guideline, we project that Oregon could see between 14,000 and 21,000 claims for benefits in September 2023.

We must also consider the nearly universal uptake of benefits from eligible new parents during the first month. If all eligible parents from the past year apply for paid leave Oregon benefits in September, the estimated total of claims could reach as high as 37,000.

Regarding the future trend, if Oregon follows Washington’s example, we can anticipate between 10,000 and 14,000 claims per month in a more established program.

Finding More Information

If you are looking for more information about the paid leave Oregon program or the report mentioned, you can visit The full report is also available on the Publications page of

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