OSU is paying entire 1% contribution to Paid Leave Oregon’s fund but not all are eligible

Skand S., News Contributor

OSU will start implementing Paid Leave Oregon, a new program from the State of Oregon that allows individuals to take paid leaves during situations impacting their families or their health and safety.

The program, which starts on Jan. 1, 2023,  is paid for by both employers and employees. The employers would pay 0.4% if they have employed more than 25 people and the employees pay 0.6% of their gross salary.

In the case of OSU employees, the university announced last Wednesday that it would pay the entire 1% of the share until further notice—which means that employees will not see a reduction in their paycheck because of this program.

Felicity Ratway, a masters student in Public Health at OSU thinks that the program is beneficial to her from a graduate student point of view. 

“Especially now that OSU is paying for it, and we don’t lose out on any pay,” Ratway said.

“Paid Leave was passed by the Oregon legislature in 2019 to serve as a vital safety net for working Oregonians. While some people have paid time off with their companies, many employees in Oregon do not have paid time off,” said the director of Paid Leave Oregon Karen Madden Humelbaugh.

The program allows people to take paid family, medical and safe leaves for up to 12 weeks a year starting on Sept. 1, 2023. 

Family leave is for birth of a child/bonding with a new child or to care for a family member with a serious illness, medical leave is for your own serious health condition, and safe leave is for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment or stalking.

According to Humelbaugh, “People who work and earn at least $1,000 the year before they apply for benefits are eligible. This includes part-time, seasonal and temporary workers.”

However, not all employees at OSU can participate in this program. Students who are employed under the federal Work-Study program at OSU are not eligible as they are excluded in the definition of an “employee” under the Oregon state law.

According to Steve Clark, the vice president of University Relations and Marketing, there are around 600-700 work-study employees at any one time. This can include hourly positions working for the dining center or an office assistant in a variety of campus centers and offices.

Additionally, if a student is an independent contractor or self-employed, they are not automatically eligible and would have to apply for coverage by creating an account in Frances Online, the Oregon Employment Department’s new portal.

Ratway is employed at OSU through her graduate research assistantship and also is a contractor, working as a health care interpreter. Ratway’s contractor job does not have paid leave protections and sometimes has adverse effects on income.

“(The contracting company could) suspend you for a week without pay because you were sick,” Ratway said. 

According to the law, OSU can choose between the state-run plan or contracting with a third party company to manage an equivalent plan that is approved by The Oregon Employment Department. 

The equivalent plan must provide the benefits that are equal to or greater than those provided through the state plan.

OSU has currently not decided which plan it will adopt. According to Clark, if OSU participates in the state plan, the contributions which account for 1% of the employee’s salary will go to a statewide trust fund and will be managed by the state. 

If OSU chooses to participate in an approved equivalent plan, the funds would be managed and paid by an approved third party administrator.

Clark also said that the financial benefits provided by Paid Leave Oregon are in addition to existing paid leave benefits provided to eligible student employees by OSU.

“I’m excited to see this. I think it’s a good protection especially for part time workers,” Ratway said. “I think that it will be interesting to see how it works for contract workers and I hope that more information is forthcoming soon.”

According to the announcement sent Wednesday afternoon, more details on leave processes and policies will be communicated in the future.

Specifics of the program can be accessed at https://paidleave.oregon.gov/Pages/default.aspx

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