What is the Washington state Paid Family Medical Leave program?
Washington state first enacted a paid family medical leave program for workers in 2007. That program, however, was never funded. Therefore, it largely remained dormant until ten years later when the Legislature approved a funding mechanism.
Employers and employees began paying premiums to fund the program in 2019 and employees were eligible for benefits starting in 2020.
Employees are eligible for up to 16 weeks of paid leave to care for family members, welcome a child, and certain military-related events, and to address any personal medical conditions of their own. (Some exceptional situations allow for up to 18 weeks of paid leave.)
What are the Paid Family Medical Leave eligibility requirements?
Employees must have worked 820 hours during the qualifying period. Qualifying period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters from the leave date. Employees are allowed to qualify for hours worked for multiple employers.
What are the Paid Family Medical Leave premiums?
The current premium rate is 0.4% of the employee’s earnings. For businesses with 50 or more employees, the cost of the total premium is shared by both the employer and the employee. For small businesses — fewer than 50 employees — only the employee-share of the premium is collected and remitted to the state by the employer.
NOTE: Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, the Paid Family Medical Leave premium rate will increase from 0.4% to 0.6%. This rate increase will also change the employer/employee split of the premium costs.
Be sure to have these new rates in place and ready to go for all employee earnings beginning Jan. 1, 2022. Employers will be 100% responsible for any premium difference that’s owed to the state as a result of any miscalculations and incorrect reportings.
You can calculate your premiums here.
What changes have been made to the Paid Family Medical Leave program since it came online in 2019?
- In 2019, the Legislature passed House Bill 1399 that allows an employee the option to “top-off” their Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit with any paid leave provided by their employer.
- In 2021, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 5097 that expanded the definition of family member to include any individual who regularly resides in the employee’s home or where the relationship creates an expectation that the employee care for the person, and that individual depends on the employee for care. (This does not include an individual who simply resides in the same house with no expectation that the employee care for the individual.)
- Also in 2021, the Legislature passed House Bill 1073 that created a grant program to fund certain paid leave requests that may otherwise be denied for lack of enough qualifying hours due to the coronavirus pandemic.
What are my responsibilities as an employer to be in compliance with the law?
Employers must notify their employees about the Paid Family Medical Leave Program. Displaying a poster in a prominent location for employees satisfies this requirement.
[MEMBER BENEFIT] Washington Hospitality Association members are entitled to a free labor poster every year. You can also download the Paid Family Medical Leave posters here.
Employers must directly notify any employee about the program who is taking time off for a health condition or to care for a family member.
Calculate & collect
All employers are required to withhold premiums from employee wages. This premium calculator can help you determine what to withhold.
NOTE: Premium rates will increase starting Jan. 1, 2022. Refer to the premium section above for more information.
Pay & Report
Employers must submit a report to ESD and remit collected premiums every quarter. (Note, employers with no payroll expenses within a quarter do not need to submit a report.)
- Q1 (January – March) reports are due by April 30
- Q2 (April – June) reports are due by July 31
- Q3 (July – September) reports are due by October 31
- Q4 (October – December) reports are due by January 31
This employer reporting page on the ESD’s website has additional information including a helpful video, webinar, employer checklist, and reporting forms.
[MEMBER BENEFIT] Do you need help with specific paid leave questions for your business? Washington Hospitality Association members can reach out to our Advisory Network for a free consultation with an HR solutions expert.
This is a lot. Can I hire another company to take care of all my Paid Family Medical Leave requirements?
Yes! You may work with a third-party company to collect and report premiums. Refer to the “Employer Agent” section of the Employment Security Department’s website for more information about third-party agents.
What if my businesses already offers a paid leave program?
Businesses that offer paid family and medical leave benefits (voluntary plans) that meet or exceed the state requirements can apply for an exemption from participating in the state paid leave program. These voluntary plans must be submitted and approved by the ESD, and are subject to annual reviews within the first three years. There is a one-time $250 voluntary plan application fee.
Are there any financial resources available to help me with this program?
Yes! Grants are available to small businesses with 150 or fewer employees. These grants are provided to help cover employer costs when an employee takes Paid Family Medical Leave.
Grants can pay for costs associated with hiring a temporary employee while another team member is on paid family medical leave. Grants can also pay for other wage and equipment expenses associated with paid leave.
Paid Family Medical Leave email list
Join the Employment Security Department’s email list for the latest news and updates on the paid family medical leave program.
Set up Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave
Archive resources: (Note: The information linked below was published prior to 2018. Some elements may be outdated.)
Employment Security Department: