Virginia governor vetoes state’s paid family, medical leave bill

Dive Brief:

  • Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday vetoed a bill passed by the state’s legislature that would have established a paid family and medical leave program starting in 2026.
  • In a statement, Youngkin called the bill, SB 373, “a one-size-fits-all solution that removes the incentive for the private sector to provide [paid family and medical leave] benefits.” The governor added that the bill’s exemption of the state government from its requirements “is evidence that this proposal is unfair.”
  • SB 373 would have covered 80% of eligible employees’ weekly wages for up to eight weeks over a 12-month period. Qualifying reasons for leave would have included birth, adoption or placement through foster care as well as caring for covered family members with a serious health condition.

Dive Insight:

Youngkin’s veto means Virginia likely will not be joining neighboring Maryland as one of 13 states and Washington, D.C., to adopt mandatory state paid family leave laws by the end of 2026, a count tracked by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Per BPC, each of these jurisdictions — with the lone exception of New York state — uses a social insurance policy that funds benefits through pooled payroll taxes on employees or employers. Virginia’s law would have required both employees and employers to contribute to a pooled system.

Paid leave compliance continues to be a complicated matter for employers given different state-to-state requirements. Despite several attempts to address the issue at the Congressional level, a federal paid family and medical leave statute has yet to emerge. In January, the House bipartisan family leave working group released a legislative framework of what such a statute could look like.

While lawmakers debate how to move forward on the issue, most employers with paid leave programs plan to make changes to those programs in the next two years, a 2023 WTW survey found. Specifically, the firm said that 22% of the 517 employers surveyed were planning to offer paid caregiver leave during that time.

Multiple studies have shown that paid leave can benefit workers and employers in myriad ways. For example, a 2022 paper published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that paid leave mandates could reduce mortality rates in large, central metropolitan counties.

On the talent side, paid leave programs may prove especially effective at retaining working parents and caregivers, sources previously told HR Dive. A joint 2023 survey of U.S. adults who were out of the labor force by BPC and Artemis Strategy Group found that caregiving responsibilities and personal health issues were among the top reasons why respondents said they were not seeking work.