Paid Family and Medical Leave
Supporting working families and helping businesses thrive as life happens.
“All too often, new parents and those with aging or sick loved ones face no-win decisions pitting the need for a paycheck against the need to be there for their family.” -- Governor Jay Inslee
Starting in 2020, Washington will be the fifth state in the nation to offer paid family and medical leave benefits to workers and employers. The program will be funded by premiums paid by both employees and employers and will be administered by the Employment Security Department (ESD). This insurance program will allow workers to take necessary time off when they welcome a new child into their family, are struck by extended illness or injury, or need to take care of an ill or ailing relative. As directed by the Legislature, premium assessment begins on Jan. 1, 2019 and benefits will be available on Jan. 1, 2020.
Rulemaking on the new law is underway, and the first draft of Phase 1 rules are now available for review and comment. There will be several phases of the rulemaking process, each related to different parts of the law. ESD would like your feedback on each phase prior to submitting the complete draft proposal of the rules.
Phase 1 is related to the following topics:
- Collective bargaining agreements
- Premium liability
- Voluntary plans
You can view the first draft of the rules here, and submit your comments on the comment portal here. Please note the comment portal is hosted by an independent company, but comments are managed by ESD employees.
Next Advisory Committee Meeting
- When: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. on Feb. 23, 2018
- Where: 212 Maple Park Ave SE, Olympia, WA 98501 | Room: Maple Leaf Conference Room
- Conference line: 360-407-3780 Passcode: 132916#
Next Stakeholder Meeting
- When: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on March 6, 2018
- Where: Employment Security Conference Room Park Place A & B (1st Floor) | 640 Woodland Square Loop SE | Lacey, WA | 98503
- Conference line: 360-407-3780 Passcode: 252630#
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The new law provides eligible workers up to 12 weeks of Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits annually for:
- Bonding after the birth or placement of a child who is under the age of 18;
- A family member's serious health condition; or
- Certain military assignments like leave for short notice deployments, military events, urgent childcare and related activities, and post-deployment activities.
Employees may also receive up to 12 weeks of paid medical leave benefits annually for their own serious health conditions, as defined in the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and its regulations.
If workers experience both scenarios in a given year, they may receive up to 16 weeks of combined benefits or up to 18 weeks if the employee experiences a serious health condition with a pregnancy that results in incapacity.
Employees are eligible for family and medical leave benefits after working for at least 820 hours during the qualifying period. Tribes and self-employed individuals, including independent contractors, may opt-in to the program. Self-employed individuals are eligible for benefits once they have worked 820 hours, after electing coverage, and must agree to pay premiums for a minimum of three years.
They’ll also have to file claims for benefits, agree to disclose certain information, notify their employers, and meet certain documentation requirements, depending on the type of claim.
How much do eligible employees receive?
Benefits will be a percentage of the individual's average weekly wage (AWW) during the two highest quarters in the qualifying period. The maximum weekly benefit amount is $1,000—adjusted annually. The minimum weekly benefit will not be less than $100 per week except if the employee's AWW at the time of the leave is less than $100 per week. In that case, the weekly benefit is the employee's full wage.
How much will employers and employees pay in premiums?
The law sets the initial premium rate at 0.4 percent of wages beginning on Jan. 1, 2019. Employers may deduct from the employees' wages 100 percent of the premiums due for the family leave and up to 45 percent of the premiums due for the medical leave portion. The employer is responsible for 55 percent of the medical leave premium. An employer may also elect to pay all of the premiums. The amount of wages subject to a premium assessment is capped at the maximum wages subject to social security tax.
Self-employed individuals who elect coverage pay only the employee share of the premiums.
Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from paying the employer share of the premiums.