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  • What is a voluntary plan?

    Voluntary plans are employer-run paid family and/or medical leave insurance programs. Employers can choose to use a voluntary plan for family leave, medical leave or both. Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, all Washington employers must offer paid family and medical leave whether it's through a voluntary plan or the state plan. Employers must apply and be approved to operate a voluntary plan. For more information, visit our voluntary plan page.

    Submit Your Voluntary Plan Application

    The benefits available to employees covered by a voluntary plan must meet or exceed the state plan's benefits. Benefits must also be extended to all employees of the applying business.

    Employers must apply and be approved to operate a voluntary plan. Applications can be submitted through an online tool, which is under development and expected to become available in late summer 2018.

    For the first three years of a voluntary plan’s existence, reapproval is required every year. After three years, reapproval is required only if the employer makes changes to the plan. All voluntary plan applications will be subject to a $250 fee, except for mandated renewals.

    If a voluntary plan is denied, employees are covered under the state plan.

    Download Voluntary Plan Guide

    Best practices for voluntary plan submission

    1. Read the Voluntary Plan Guide to prepare;

    2. Identify the gaps in existing policy from the Paid Family and Medical Leave program requirements;

    3. Stipulate the leave entitlement specific to Paid Family and Medical Leave;

    4. Provide sufficient details for determination review;

    5. Ensure definitions match those required under the law (for example: definition of family).

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  • Employer Webinar: Voluntary Plan Overview

    Address Line 1: Online Webinar

    If your business is considering a voluntary plan to cover your employees outside of the state plan, attend this webinar to learn the steps you’ll need to take to offer an approved plan.

    You must … more

    End Date and Time: 12/4/2018 4:00:00 PM

    Start Date and Time: 12/4/2018 3:00:00 PM

  • Employer Webinar: Voluntary Plan Overview

    Address Line 1: Online Webinar

    If your business is considering a voluntary plan to cover your employees outside of the state plan, attend this webinar to learn the steps you’ll need to take to offer an approved plan.

    You must … more

    End Date and Time: 12/10/2018 11:00:00 AM

    Start Date and Time: 12/10/2018 10:00:00 AM

  • Applying for a Voluntary Plan

    Applying for a Voluntary Plan

    The voluntary plan application process is three steps:

    Submit the application

    Upload your policy

    Pay the application fee

    All … more

  • Your Application Has Been Submitted

    Your Application Has Been Submitted

    Thank you for submitting your voluntary plan application.

    Next Steps:

    Check your email. We've sent you instructions and a payment … more

  • Is participation in the program mandatory?

    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: employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer portion of premiums, but must still report employee wages, hours and more as well as remit the employee's portion of premiums. Federal Employees are exempt from this program.

    Voluntary Plans are available to employers who wish to operate their own paid family and/or medical leave programs. The employee benefits of a Voluntary Plan must meet or exceed the state plan's benefits. Benefits must also be extended to all employees of the applying business.

    Employers must apply and be approved to operate a Voluntary Plan. Applications can be submitted through an online tool, which is under development and expected to become available in late summer 2018.

    For the first three years of a Voluntary Plan’s existence, reapproval is required every year. After three years, reapproval is required only if the employer makes changes to the plan. All Voluntary Plan applications will be subject to a $250 fee, except for mandated renewals.

    If a Voluntary Plan is denied, employees are covered under the state plan.

    More information is available on our Voluntary Plan Page.

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  • Is participation in the program mandatory?

    Generally, yes: Nearly everyone who works in Washington will participate in the program.

    Exceptions include workers who are:

    • Federal employees.
    • Employed by a federally recognized tribe.
    • Subject to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that was in existence on or before Oct. 19, 2017.
    • Self-employed.

    Important details:

    • Self-employed people may opt in to gain access to the benefit.
    • Employees covered under a CBA that was in existence on or before 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 will not pay premiums or be eligible for leave until the CBA is reopened, renegotiated, or expires.
    • Some employers may choose to offer benefits through a private plan called a voluntary plan. If your employer has an approved voluntary plan, they are required to offer benefits that are equal to or greater than the state plan.

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  • How do I pay premiums?

    Paid Family and Medical Leave is an insurance program funded through premiums paid by employers and workers. Employers start collecting premiums on Jan. 1, 2019. All employers may either withhold employees' premiums from their paychecks or pay some or all of the premium on their employees’ behalf. Employers who choose to withhold premiums from their employees may withhold up to 63.333% of the total premium. The employer is responsible for paying the other 37.667% and remitting total premiums to ESD on a quarterly basis starting April 2019.

    Key details

    • The premium for 2019 is 0.4% of an employee's gross wages. To estimate your premiums, use the calculation below or our premium calculator.
    • Under the law, employers may split the cost of the program with employees by withholding up to 63.333% of the premium from their paychecks.
    • An employer can elect to pay all or some of their employees' share of the premium on their behalf.
    • Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer portion of the premium.
    • Premium withholdings are capped at the Social Security cap, $132,900 in 2019.

    Summary

    Washington's Paid Family and Medical Leave is organized as an insurance program. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2019, most employers will collect up to 63% of each employee's Paid Family and Medical Leave premium from their paychecks. Employers may elect to pay all or some of their employees' premiums on their behalf.

    The initial premium will be 0.4% and can be adjusted annually after 2020 by the Employment Security Department, according to rules set by the statute. 

    Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer portion of the premium but are still required to collect and remit the employee portion.

    Employers operating an approved voluntary plan should refer to the voluntary plan page for details about premium collection in that circumstance.

    Premium calculation

    If an employer is using the state plan for both family and medical leave and opts not to cover any of their employee's share of the premium, they will pay about 37% of their employee's total premium, and the employee will pay about 63%. You can estimate your premiums using our premium calculator or by using the calculation detailed below.

    An employee earned $2,500 gross pay in a single pay period. The premium is 0.4% in 2019. 

    First, calculate the employee’s total premium.

    $2500 * .004 = $10

    Second, calculate the minimum employer and maximum employee shares.

    Maximum employee share

    $10 * .6333 = $6.33

    $6.33 is the total maximum employee share of the premium.

    Minimum employer share

    $10 * .3667 = $3.67

    The employee contributes $6.33. The employer contributes $3.67.

    Please note:

    • Use conventional rounding when necessary.
    • An employer can pay any or all of the employee’s share of the premiums.
    • If the employer had fewer than 50 employees, they are not required to contribute the employer part of the premium. They are still required to collect and remit the employee part, as well as fulfill the reporting requirements of the program.

    Remittance

    Premiums are expected to be reported quarterly. They will need to be remitted before the end of the month after each completed calendar quarter.

    Reporting Quarter

    Payment Due Before

    January – March

    April 30

    April – June

    July 30

    July – September

    October 31

    October – December

    January 31

    The tools employers will use to pay these premiums are being created in the summer of 2018. More information will be posted here when details about this process are available. Our newsletter is the best place to receive updates about this process.

    Exemptions

    Localization

    Nearly all employers in the state are required to participate in this program. Out-of-state employers who have employees based in Washington are required to collect premiums and remit on behalf of their Washington employees.

    If an employee primarily works in Washington, and most of their work is performed in Washington, they are covered by Paid Family and Medical Leave. This continues to be true even if they sometimes travel for work out of state.

    An employee is not covered by Paid Family and Medical Leave, and their employer is not required to withhold premiums, if they are working in Washington for a short period of time.

    Example: A storm hits Washington. An employer in Oregon dispatches an employee who typically lives and works in Oregon to help with repair work. The employee works temporarily in Washington for the employer for one week, and then returns to work in Oregon for the employer. The employment is localized within Oregon and is not subject to premium assessment.

    Voluntary plan participants

    Voluntary Plan employers are not required to withhold state plan premiums. They are still required to report employee wages and hours, along with other information. See the Voluntary Plan page for more information.

    Self employment 

    Any self-employed person may opt-in to the state plan. This includes sole proprietors, independent contractors, partners, and joint ventures. When electing to use the state plan, self-employed persons must participate for an initial period of three years, and then can renew every year thereafter.

    Self-employed people must cover the employee share of the premium and are required to work 820 hours in the qualifying period to be eligible for benefits.

    For more information regarding self-employed persons using the state plan, see the RCW here: Elective Coverage – Self Employed.

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