Whether it’s to welcome a new child or cope with a serious health condition, this year employees in Washington State can start exercising their right to take paid time off available through the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program. PFML is a mandatory statewide insurance program that provides wage replacement benefits to an employee taking leave to bond with a new child, to care for a sick family member, or when their own serious health condition prevents them from working.
The program, which is administered by the Employment Security Department (ESD), is funded by premiums paid by both employees and employers. The state began collecting premiums last year but the right to take paid leave didn’t begin until January 1, 2020. Simultaneously, the ESD released the “Paid Time Off” notice that employers are required to post in the workplace. Conveniently, Washington employers can ensure posting compliance with purchase of our updated 2020 Washington All-On-One™ Poster. Learn more about the program below.
Eligibility: Almost every Washington employee can qualify for PFML if they have worked 820 hours in Washington over the course of a year. Employees can accumulate 820 hours from one employer or multiple employers.
Duration: Employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks per year of medical leave for their own serious health condition or family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. The amount of leave is determined by a medical provider and based on the amount of time that is medically necessary. Employees may qualify for up to 16 weeks of paid leave for multiple caregiving events in the same year. An employee who experiences pregnancy complications may be eligible for up to 18 weeks of paid leave.
Family members include:
- Spouses and domestic partners
- Children (biological, adopted, foster or stepchild)
- Parents and legal guardians (or spouse’s parents)
- Grandparents (or spouse’s grandparents)
Taking paid leave: PFML does not need to be taken all at once. However, an employee must take a minimum of 8 consecutive hours of leave each week. Except for leave taken to bond with a new child, workers are not paid for the first week of their claim.
Program funding: The premium is 0.4% of each employee’s gross wages, about 2/3 of which is paid by the employee and 1/3 paid by the employer. The premium is optional for employers with fewer than 50 employees.
Weekly benefit: An employee taking paid leave will receive up to 90% of their weekly pay, up to a maximum of $1,000/week.
Employee protections: Employers may not prevent employees from taking paid leave. Employers cannot require employees to use other leaves first, such as sick or vacation days. If the employer has 50 or more employees, the employee is eligible for job protection provided the employee worked for the employer for 12 months or longer and worked 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
Notice & posting:
- Employers must post the ESD’s Paid Time Off notice in an area where employment-related notices are customarily posted.
- An employer must provide the Statement of Employee Rights to an employee taking family or medical leave for more than seven consecutive days. Download the Washington Paid Family & Medical Leave Statement of Employee Rights for free here.
How to apply: Employees can apply for PFML on the ESD’s website at https://paidleave.wa.gov/. The Office of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Ombuds can assist employers and workers with complaints about the program. Visit the Ombud’s website at https://paidleaveombuds.wa.gov/.