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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.
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.
You must apply and be approved to operate a voluntary plan.
For the first three years of a voluntary plan’s existence, reapproval is required every year. After three years, reapproval is required only if you make 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.
Best practices for voluntary plan submission
- Read the Voluntary Plan Guide to prepare.
- Identify the gaps in existing policy from the Paid Family and Medical Leave program requirements.
- Stipulate the leave entitlement specific to Paid Family and Medical Leave.
- Provide sufficient details for determination review.
- Ensure definitions match those required under the law (for example: definition of family).
We do not begin reviewing a voluntary plan application until we receive your payment. We recommend you allow 30 days from the date we receive your payment to the date we issue an application decision.back to top
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
Thank you for submitting your voluntary plan application.
Check your email. We've sent you instructions and a payment … more
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 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.
Nearly all employers in Washington state have responsibilities under the Paid Family and Medical Leave program, including small businesses, state and local government agencies and non-profits, faith organizations and other typically tax-exempt associations. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer portion of premiums, but must remit employee premiums and report employee wages, hours and more to ESD. Federal employees, federally recognized tribes and self-employed people are exempt from this program, but federally recognized tribes and self-employed workers may opt-in.
Voluntary plans may be an option for an employer who wants to operate their own paid family or medical leave programs. Employers must apply and be approved to operate a voluntary plan. More information is available on our voluntary plan page.back to top
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 … more
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 one year thereafter.
Self-employed people who choose to participate 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.back to top
When you apply for benefits (starting in 2020), you will be able to set up a customer account with Employment Security Department to apply for and manage your claim. The application and benefit payment processes will be customer-focused, and we anticipate designing a simple, fast and friendly experience. This page will be updated with more information when it is available.back to top
As part of the Paid Family and Medical Leave implementation, ESD is building a secure account management system where employers will file reports, pay premiums, and apply for voluntary plans, among other things. Employers will login to the system through Secure Access Washington (SAW). If you do not already have a SAW account, you will need to create one.
The development of the account management system is strategically phased to deliver the most value to customers as quickly as possible. That means that what you see the first time you log in to your account is not the finished product but the first iteration of a system that will be refined and expanded as we implement new components of the program.
Check back in spring of 2019 for more information.
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