New Paid Family Leave Law Passes

The state of Washington passed a new law earlier this week that extends benefits to drivers of rideshare services.

Washington is now the first state that has codified into law the right for drivers of rideshare companies to qualify for paid medical and family leave.

The new law, named Substitute House Bill 1570, will force the companies that the drivers are employed by will fund paid programs providing family and medical leave. Under the law, which passed through both chambers of Washington’s state Legislature unanimously, providers drivers as many as 12 weeks of paid leave that they can take as a result of any medical event or if they had a new child.

The temporary unemployment benefits that were extended to drivers – and other freelancers and independent contractors – during the COVID-19 pandemic will also now be permanent for all drivers.

Right before he signed the bill, Governor Jay Inslee said:

“Recognizing their hours worked is a critical step to make sure they can access our state’s social safety net programs. We know the nature of work is evolving and so must the programs and policies that support workers and their families.”

This is the latest victory won by rideshare drivers in the state of Washington. Last year, House Bill 2076, better known as the Expanding Fairness law, guaranteed that all drivers receive benefits without having to be named employees of the companies. Essentially, they’re now able to qualify for benefits while still being termed as gig workers.

Those benefits include a minimum rate of pay, paid sick leave as well as a resource center for any driver who wants to appeal a deactivation. Rideshare companies are also prohibited from setting a scheduled for their workers, while cities in Washington no longer have the power to regulate these companies.

Media outlet The Center Square published a report on this development, and reached out to representatives from Lyft and Uber – the two largest rideshare companies – to see whether the new law might raise fares for riders. 

Uber’s spokesperson sent a statement in response that read:

“We are proud to stand with Governor Inslee, Representative Berry, labor and the many drivers as the bookend, HB1570, to the historic worker bill, HB2076, is signed into law today. These coordinated pieces of legislation reflect a true compromise between state lawmakers, labor leaders and transportation network companies to afford drivers historic new benefits while protecting the independence and flexibility they say they want.”

The communications manager for Lyft, C.J. Macklin, emailed a statement to The Center Square that read:

“This is another historic win for drivers in Washington state and is the culmination of the progress made last year with the passage of HB 2076, first-in-the-nation legislation providing drivers in Washington with numerous benefits.

“HB 1570 would add paid family medical leave and unemployment insurance benefits to that list. These new benefits and protections are the result of legislators, app-based companies, and labor organizations listening to drivers and working together.”