Employers

Get ready! Download our employer toolkit here!

What to do on Jan. 1, 2019:

  1. Begin collecting Paid Family and Medical Leave premiums
  2. Budget for the employer share of the premium
  3. Begin tracking hours and wages of all employees, including seasonal, temporary and part-time workers

Federal employers and employees, federally recognized tribes and sole-proprietors are exempt from the program, but tribes and sole-proprietors may opt in. If you have employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement they may have delayed participation in the program. 

Quick facts

Premium collection:

  1. Premiums are 0.4% of gross wages paid.
  2. Employers may either withhold employees' premiums from their paychecks or pay the entire premium for their employees. Employers who choose to withhold premiums from their employees may withhold up to 63 percent of the total premium. The employer is responsible for paying the other 37 percent.
  3. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer portion of the premium but are required to remit employee-paid premiums to ESD and abide by all reporting requirements.
  4. Small business assistance grants are available to businesses with 50 to 150 employees and to businesses with fewer than 50 employees who choose to pay the employer share of their employee's premium.

Reporting:

  1. Nearly all employers statewide will need to report employee wages, hours worked, and additional information to ESD every quarter.
  2. Employers should begin tracking hours and wages Jan. 1, 2019, to prepare for reporting in April.
  3. Employers who want to internally manage a paid family and medical leave plan for their employees may apply for a voluntary plan. Voluntary plans must be approved by ESD and employers will still need to meet the program's reporting requirements.

Benefits available:

  1. Starting Jan. 1, 2020, eligible workers can take leave for qualified family and medical events. Employees getr up to 12 weeks of leave, and up to 18 weeks under exceptional circumstances.

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. 

Learn More: Employer Webinars

We will host a series of live employer webinars throughout 2018. You can find the schedule for these webinars on our Employer Webinar page.

 Your feedback is welcome. Please take our short survey about this webinar after viewing: Webinar Survey


How does Paid Family & Medical Leave work for employers?

  • Who's eligible for benefits?

    To qualify for Paid Family and Medical Leave, you must work 820 hours or more in the qualifying period. The qualifying period is either:

    • The first four of the last five completed calendar quarters; or
    • The last four completed calendar quarters

    All Washington employers, including out-of-state employers with Washington employees, are required to particpate with few exceptions.

    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.
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  • What do the benefits cover?

    Paid Family and Medical Leave cannot be taken without a qualifying event. Leave events can be either Family or Medical.

    Family Leave

    • Care and bond after a baby’s birth or the placement of a child younger than 18
    • Care for a family member experiencing an illness or medical event
    • Certain military-connected events

    Medical Leave

    • Care for yourself in relation to an illness or medical event

    When qualified, Washington workers will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave. An additional 2 weeks of leave is available when the leave is a result of pregnancy complications. Workers are eligible for up to 16 weeks of leave when family and medical leave are used in combination. For example, an expecting mother could use 8 weeks of medical leave for bed rest. The mother could then use an additional 8 weeks of family leave after giving birth to care and bond with the new child.

    Benefits

    The weekly benefit for Paid Family and Medical Leave is the dollar amount a covered employee will receive from ESD while claiming these benefits. The dollar amount is capped at $1,000 with a minimum of $100 and is a calculated percentage of the employee's gross wages.

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  • How is the program funded?

    Washington's Paid Family & Medical Leave Program is organized as an insurance program. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2019, most employers are required to collect Paid Family and Medical Leave premiums from employee paychecks.

    The initial premium will be .4% and can be adjusted annually after 2020 by the Employment Security Department, according to rules set by the statute. One-third (1/3) of the premium will be collected for Family Leave, and 2/3 of the premium for Medical Leave.

    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. To learn more about how we calculate the number of employees a business has, read our Employer Page.

    Premium payments are required to be paid quarterly. Payments are due to the department by the last day of the month following the end of the calendar quarter for which premiums are being paid.

    Employers using a Voluntary Plan should refer to the Voluntary Plan page for details about premium collection in that circumstance.

    Witholding Example

    As an example, an employee has earned $2,500 gross pay in a single pay period. The premium is 0.4% in 2019.

    Total Premium Calculation

    $2,500 * .004  = $10.

    In this example, the total premium would be $10.

    An employer may choose to pay this entire premium on their own. If they choose to withhold a portion from their employees, the maximum they may withhold can be calculated:

    The Employee Portion

    Family Leave: $10 * .3333 = $3.33

    Medical Leave: $10 * .3000 = $3.00

    The Employer Portion

    Medical Leave: $10 * .3667 = $3.67

    In this example, the employee would have $6.33 ($3.33 + $3.00) withheld from their paycheck. The employer would remit employee and employer portions and quarterly to the Employment Security Department.

    If the employer had fewer than 50 employees, they would not be 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.

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  • 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: 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.

    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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As an employer, what are my responsibilities?

  • What are my responsibilities?

    Paid Family and Medical Leave is a statewide insurance program. 

    With very few exceptions, employers will have a responsibility to:

    1. Report employee wages, hours worked, and other information for all employees.
    2. Collect and remit premiums.

    Collective bargaining agreements

    Do you have employees covered under a collective bargaining agreement? 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 do not withhold premiums from these employees or pay the employer share of their premium until the CBA is reopened, renegotiated, or expires.

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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% of the total premium. The employer is responsible for paying the other 37% 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% 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, $128,400 in 2018.

    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 (learn more about how we calculate the number of employees a business has, read our employer page).

    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

    (Reporting and remitting details are still in the rulemaking process, set to be finalized Nov. 2018 - have your say about the proposed rules here)

    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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  • How do I report employee hours and wages?

    Starting in 2019, employers will be required to report employee information to ESD quarterly. The first report will be due April 30 and you should begin tracking your employees’ hours and wages on Jan. 1, 2019.

    Reporting fields
    • UBI number
    • Business name
    • Total premiums collected from employees
    • Name of the report preparer

    Then, for each employee:
    • SSN or ITIN
    • Last name
    • First name
    • Middle initial
    • Hours worked in the reporting quarter
    • Wages paid in the reporting quarter

    Reporting periods follow calendar quarters and are aligned with the reporting periods for Unemployment Insurance.

    Reporting quarter Report due
    January, February, March April 30
    April, May, June July 31
    July, August, September October 31
    October, November, December January 31

    Reporting process

    In April 2019, employers will submit employee hours, wages and more for the first time. The process is currently in development and we plan to make it like reporting for Unemployment Insurance. However, it will be a separate report from Unemployment
    Insurance and other state programs. We expect most employers will submit reports online through our employer account management system. Bulk filing and paper reporting options will both be available.

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  • Does this replace FMLA?

    Paid Family and Medical Leave is a statewide program. FMLA is a federal program. In short, this does not replace FMLA.

    Businesses with fewer than 50 employees do not have requirements under FMLA, but they must collect and remit employee premiums and complete required reporting for Paid Family and Medical Leave.

    When an employee experiences a qualifying event, and the event would qualify for both Paid Family and Medical Leave and FMLA, the available leave in both programs decreases together as an employee takes leave.

    Many questions about how Paid Family and Medical Leave will interact with FMLA will be answered in the third phase of Rulemaking. We encourage the public to participate in this process through our Rulemaking Page.

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  • What happens when my employee wants to take paid leave?

    Paid Family and Medical Leave is structured as an insurance program. Your employees pay into the program through payroll withholding, which is remitted by the employer. They qualify by working 820 hours in the qualifying period, verified by employer reporting.

    Once an employee has qualified by working 820 hours, they must then experience a qualifying event. This event could be related to either family or medical leave. For example, an employee who is caring for their newborn would use family leave. An employee caring for themselves after a car accident would use medical leave.

    After qualifying, the employee will file a claim with the Employment Security Department. This claim could be filed after the first missed day of work. In the car accident example, an employee could file their claim once they are physically able to. If the reason for leave is foreseeable, the employee must give their employer 30 days’ notice of their intention to take leave.

    The employer will be notified of the employee’s claim for leave. A process for the employer to dispute the employees claim will be developed in Phase 3 of Rulemaking. When the claim is approved, the employee receives their benefit payment within 14 days of the application. Payments are made biweekly after the first payment.

    If an employer has 50 or more employees, the employee is eligible for job protection if they have worked for that employer for 12 months or longer and have worked 1250 hours in the year to date before the first day of leave. 

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  • How do I protect against fraud?

    Detecting and stopping fraud is an important part of the sustainability of Paid Family and Medical Leave. As our program develops, we will announce fraud policies on this website.

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How do I apply for a voluntary plan?

  • 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

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How does Paid Leave work with small businesses?

  • Are small businesses exempt?

    Businesses of all sizes - from one employee to 100,000 are a part of this program. However, businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from paying the employer portion of the premium. 

    Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will:

    • Collect and remit employee premiums through paycheck withholding
    • Report employee wages, hours worked, and more on a quarterly basis

    Under current proposed rules, business size for early 2019 will be calculated using the headcount from your first quarter report (Jan – March). Size is not calculated by FTE positions. Starting Sept. 2019, business size will be averaged on an annual basis. ESD will average the number of employees reported by an employer over the last four completed calendar quarters. The employee headcount will be used to determine employer premium responsibilities and eligibility for small business assistance grants.

    Even if you are exempt from FMLA or Unemployment Insurance (UI) requirements, you are more than likely required to particpate in this program. The only significant exemptions for Paid Family and Medical Leave are federal employers and employees, federally recognized tribes and sole-proprietors.

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  • Are independent contractors covered?

    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.

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  • Is there assistance for small business?

    Grants are available for small businesses to help cover the costs of hiring temporary employees when a member of your team uses Paid Family and Medical Leave. To be eligible for these grants, your business must average 150 or fewer employees. Businesses that average fewer than 50 employees must pay the employer portion of premiums to be eligible.

    Grants of up to $3,000 are available and can be issued 10 times per year to a single employer. A business must apply for these grants and more information about the application process will be available in the future.

    A grant of $1,000 is available to businesses who experience significant wage-related costs due to an employee’s leave when using Paid Family and Medical Leave.

    You can learn more about Small Business Assistance in the RCW here.

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How do I manage my employer account?

  • How do I manage my employer account?

    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. 

    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 late fall 2018 for more information.

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