Washington employers will play a critical role in the success of Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program. This statewide insurance program can play an important part in employee retention, wellbeing, and the global competitiveness of Washington’s businesses.
It is harder than ever to find employees with the right mix of skill and experience. Paid Family and Medical Leave can help by giving your business access to this valuable benefit without carrying all of the costs, so you can keep your best employees even when they experience life's challenges.
- This statewide insurance plan requires employers to report employee wages, hours worked, and additional information every quarter.
- Premiums are 0.4% of gross wages paid.
- Premium collection begins in 2019 and claims for leave benefits start in 2020.
- Workers can take leave for qualified events for up to 12 weeks generally, and up to 18 weeks under exceptional circumstances.
- Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer portion of the premium but are required to collect and remit the employee portion of the premium and abide by all reporting requirements.
- Small business assistance grants are available to businesses with 50-150 employees, and businesses with fewer than 50 employees who have opted-in to the employer share of the premium.
- Voluntary plans are available to employers who want to manage a plan internally that meets or exceeds the state plan’s requirements.
Paid Family and Medical Leave is a statewide insurance program.
With very few exceptions, all employers will have a responsibility to:
- Report employee wages, hours worked, and other information for all employees.
- Collect and remit premiums.
- Post required poster and notices
This program was authorized by the Legislature in 2017, and its implementation is ongoing. The information below will help you get started, but please understand that rulemaking is ongoing, and we will update this page with more details as they become available. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date. Watch the Employer Webinar for additional information.
The required poster and notice information will be available in fall 2018.
Small businesses have special consideration in Paid Family and Medical Leave. For example, employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer portion of the premium, but are required to report employee hours and wages. To learn more about small businesses and Paid Family and Medical Leave, check out our Small Business Page.
Who Is Required To Participate?
All Washington employers, including out-of-state employers with Washington employees, are required to particpate with few exceptions.
- Self employed individuals (May opt-in)
- Federal Employees
- Federally Recognized Tribes (May opt-in)
- People who work temporarily in Washington (Example: Utility worker helping after a storm)
Temporary waivers for out-of-state employees
Employers may apply for a Premium Waiver for their workers when:
- The employee generally does their work out of state;
- The employee works in Washington on a temporary work schedule; and
- The employee is not expected to work in Washington for 820 hours or more.
In-state vs. out-of-state employees
An employee is included in Paid Family and Medical Leave when:
- All of the employee’s work is performed in Washington; or
- Most of the employee’s work or services are done in Washington, but some of the work is done temporarily out-of-state.
When work is not located in any state, the worker must participate when:
- The base of operations is in Washington; or
- If there is no base of operations, but the place where services are directed is in Washington; or
- There is no base of operations, no place where services are directed, but the worker lives in Washington.
An employee qualifies for leave by working 820 hours in the qualifying period. These hours can be earned at more than one employer. By reporting hours to the Employment Security Department, employers ensure an accurate record of hours worked by each employee. This means an employee could work 20 hours a week at two employers and earn 40 hours total per week towards eligibility.
The qualifying period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters from the date leave is set to begin. If leave is not established with this initial period, the last four completed calendar quarters immediately preceding the application for leave will be used.
Nearly all Washington employers will have a responsibility to report wages and hours worked for their Washington-based employees starting in 2019.
The benefits of Paid Family and Medical Leave are portable between jobs, so employees’ access to this leave will depend on accurate reporting by all employers.
There are penalties written into the statute for employers who neglect this responsibility.
Reportable information is being developed through the rulemaking process and you can learn more by examining or commenting on Phase 2 of rulemaking on our Rulemaking Page.
The reporting website is in development. Employers will use SecureAccess.wa.gov to manage their user information. More information about how to format your data for this report will be available in late 2018 or early 2019. The first required reporting will be for the first quarter of 2019 and must be reported by April 30, 2019.
There will be new payroll withholding rules in 2019, and you will need to prepare your business to collect and remit Paid Family and Medical Leave premiums quarterly. The premium will be 0.4% of gross wages paid each quarter starting in 2019. The employer portion will be about 37% of the premium. Employers may withhold up to the remaining 63% of the premium from employee wages if they choose.
These premiums are split into two parts, Family Leave and Medical Leave. This distinction is important when considering Voluntary Plans. Family Leave is 1/3 of the total premium, and Medical Leave is 2/3. The Family Leave premium is paid entirely by the employee. The Medical Leave premium is split; 45% paid by employee, 55% paid by employer.
In the example above, an employee who earned $2,000 in gross wages would have a premium of $8. This would equate to a $2.94 employer contribution and a $5.06 employee contribution.
Employers who have fewer than 50 employees do not have to contribute the employer portion of the premium but may opt-in to become eligible for Small Business Assistance. Employers with fewer than 50 employees and have not paid the employer share of the premium are still required to collect and remit premiums on behalf of their employees and abide by all reporting requirements. Learn more on our Small Business Page.
Premiums are due at the end of the calendar month immediately after the end of a calendar quarter.
Payment Due Before
January – March
April – June
July – September
October – December
You can learn more about premiums on our Premiums page.
Employees must work 820 hours during the qualifying period to be eligible for benefits. The qualifying period is the first four (4) of the last five (5) completed calendar quarters, or if the employee doesn’t qualify by that standard, the last four (4) completed calendar quarters will be used.
The 820 hours an employee needs to qualify can be accrued at more than one employer. If an employee worked 15 hours a week at two different employers, they would accrue 30 hours per week toward this program’s qualifying hours.
You can learn more about employee benefits on our Employee Benefits page.
Employees will be counted once a year. On Sept. 30 of each year, the department will average the number of employees reported by an employer over the last four completed calendar quarters. The number of employees counted will be used to determine eligibility for small business assistance grants and the option of collecting employer premiums for businesses with fewer than 50 employees. This is a headcount, rather than a count of full time equivalent employees.
Voluntary plans are available to employers who would like to operate their own paid family leave program, paid medical leave program. An employer who chooses a voluntary plan must offer every employee benefits that meet or exceed the state plan.
Voluntary plan benefits must:
- Offer the same or greater duration of leave as the State Plan.
- Offer equal or better wage replacement.
- Withhold the same or less from an employee’s paycheck.
- Cover the same events as the State Plan.
- Apply to all employees.
A voluntary plan may cover Medical Leave, Family Leave, or both. If an employer chooses to offer a voluntary plan for one part, medical or family, the employer must participate in the state plan for the program not offered, including collecting and remitting premiums for that portion of the plan.
Voluntary plans must be re-approved annually for the first three years. After three years, the employer must submit the plan for re-approval when it is modified for a reason that is not required by statute.
If approved, premiums for voluntary plans are not paid to the state and employee claims are made through the employers voluntary plan.
An employer using a voluntary plan must maintain health insurance if required by FMLA, and the employee remains responsible for their portion for the health insurance premiums.
An application fee of $250 is required for review when submitting a voluntary plan to cover the administration costs associated with the application. Applications will be available for voluntary plans in late Summer 2018.
Learn more on the voluntary plan page.
Employers and employees subject to collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) that were in existence on Oct. 19, 2017 are not subject to the rights or responsibilities of paid family and medical leave until the agreement is reopened, renegotiated, or expires. You can learn more about CBAs and how they relate to Paid Family and Medical Leave here.
- Prepare to withhold premiums.
- Prepare to report wages, hours, and other required information.
- Decide to use the state plan or a voluntary plan.
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