Washington State Paid Family and Medical Leave Program

What are the types of leave included in the program?

  • Family Leave: (1) Provide care for a family member with a serious health condition; (2) Bond with a child after birth, adoption, or foster placement, and; (3) Foreign military exigency.
    • Family member: A child, grandchild, grandparent, parent, parent-in-law, sibling, or spouse.
  • Medical Leave: For an employee’s own serious health condition, include pregnancy-related disability.
  • Applies the same medical condition and military exigency requirements as stated in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 

Who is in the program?

  • All employees, including those at small businesses (i.e. ≤ 50 employees);
    • Qualifying period: 820 hours of work in Washington State in four of the last five quarters
  • Employers with 51+ employees, unless they receive an approved waiver for offering an equivalent, private program;
  • Employers with ≤ 50 employees are not required to pay the employer premiums;
    • To be eligible for business assistance grants, they may opt-in for a minimum of three years and pay the employer premium.
  • Independent contractors and self-employed may opt-in.
    • They may opt-in for a minimum of three years and must pay 100% of the premium.

Who pays, and how much?

  • Family Leave: The premiums are paid 100% by employees;
  • Medical Leave: The premiums are split, 55% employer and 45% employee;
  • Total Premium Cost: 37% employer, 63% employee.
  • Premiums will be calculated at the Social Security wage base.
    • For employers, they will cost approximately $1,100/year for every $1 million in payroll.
  • Premiums will be collected starting Jan. 1, 2019, and benefits will be paid beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

How many weeks will the benefit provide each year?

  • Family Leave: Up to 12 weeks;
  • Medical Leave: Up to 12 weeks, or up to 14 weeks for own pregnancy-related complications;
  • Total Annual Cap: Up to 16 weeks, or up to 18 weeks for own pregnancy-related complications.
  • The year begins with the qualifying experience (birth or placement of a child) or application for benefits.

What is the benefit wage replacement amount?

  • Maximum weekly benefit: $1,000 starting Jan. 1, 2020 (adjusted annually thereafter);
  • Employees earning ≤ 50% of WA’s average weekly wage: 90% of the employee’s average weekly wage;
  • Employees earning > 50% of WA’s average weekly wage: 90% of WA’s average weekly wage + 50% of the employee’s average weekly wage that is greater than 50% of WA’s average weekly wage.
  • Benefit calculated on the two highest earning quarters in the last four completed quarters.


What are the job protection requirements?

  • There are no additional requirements beyond federal FMLA:
    • An employee’s job is protected if they work for an employer with 50+ employees, and have worked for that employer for 12 months and 1,250 hours prior to the qualifying event;
    • Key employees are exempted from the job protection requirement.
  • There are different requirements for employers with waived voluntary programs.

What business assistance requirements are built in?

  • Employers with ≤ 150 employees are eligible to receive a $3,000 training grant for hiring a temporary worker or $1,000 grant for additional wage costs (e.g. overtime) when an employee is out on leave;
    • Annual cap of $30,000 per employer.
  • No unemployment insurance (UI) charge for an employer who hires a temporary employee to cover for an employee on leave, and then lays off the temporary employee when the regular employee returns.

What is the appeals process?

  • It is modeled after Employment Security Department’s (ESD) unemployment insurance (UI) process:
    • An initial claim with ESD;
    • Appeal to Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH);
    • Appeal to trial courts.
  • Employers have the right to cure, similarly to pregnancy accommodations.

What else is important for businesses to know?

  • Employees are required to provide an employer with 30 days written notice, or as soon as practicable;
  • Employees must take leave in 8-hour increments;
  • Employees are not eligible for workers’ compensation or UI while on paid family or medical leave;
  • Employers may require federal FMLA leave to be taken concurrently with paid family or medical leave;
  • Employers are required to provide employees with information about their rights under this program and the appeals process at the time of hire and in the employee handbook or on an employment poster;
  • Employers may seek a waiver if they provide an equivalent or better voluntary paid family and medical leave program to their employees.

Is this policy uniform statewide?

  • A political subdivision may not enact legislation altering or enhancing the state policy requirements or provide for local enforcement of the law.

Who administers and enforces the program?

  • Employment Security Department (ESD)
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (PFMLI) Ombuds in ESD will be available to all employers and employees in the state.

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