Frequently Asked Questions
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.
What about non-profit businesses and government agencies? Are they exempt?
Nearly all employers in the State of Washington have responsibilities under the Paid Family and Medical Leave program, including non-profits, state and local government agencies, faith organizations and other typically tax-exempt associations. An important note: all employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay premiums, but must still report employee wages, hours and more. Federal Employees are exempt from this program.
For more information about premiums, reporting requirements and business assistance grants, please visit the small business page on our website.
Will my employer hold my job if I have to take leave?
Just like FMLA, employees who return from leave under this law will be restored to a same or equivalent job—as long as they work for an employer with 50 or more employees and meet other requirements in the law.
What if an employer already has a plan or doesn’t want to be part of this program?
Employers may file an application to participate in a voluntary plan for either family leave or medical leave, or both. The employers voluntary plan must provide benefits to the employees that are at least equivalent to the benefits the employees are entitled to as part of the state's family and medical leave program. The application fee each voluntary plan is $250.
For more information about voluntary plans, please visit the voluntary plan page on our website.
Is there help for smaller employers?
Employers with 150 or fewer employees or employers with 50 or fewer employees who opt to pay all premiums are eligible for grants of $3,000 if the employer hires a temporary worker to replace an employee on leave for seven or more days; or up to $1,000 for reimbursement for significant additional wage-related costs related to an employee's leave. An employer may not receive more than 10 grants per year and only one for each employee on leave.
What about Paid Sick Leave?
Employers in Washington must provide paid sick leave to their employees starting Jan. 1, 2018. It’s one of the changes resulting from voter-approved Initiative 1433. The state Department of Labor & Industries has a major role implementing the new law, which also includes annual increases in the state minimum wage through 2020 and ensures tips and service charges are given to the appropriate staff. For a quick reference guide on the differences between paid sick leave and Paid Family and Medical Leave, click here. For more information, go to www.Lni.wa.gov/SickLeave.