Paid time off when it’s needed most
Paid Family and Medical Leave is a new benefit for almost everyone working in Washington. It provides paid time off when workers need it most, like to recover from a serious illness, take care of a new baby or spend time with a family member on leave from the military. It’s making Washington an even better place to live, work and do business—and employers play an important role.
Download the Employer Toolkit
Download the Employer Toolkit for support and information about Paid Family and Medical Leave. It includes detailed information about how to calculate and collect premiums, submit your quarterly report and notify employees about the program. It also includes sample communications that you can share with your employees to let them know about their new benefit.
How paid leave works
Who is eligible for paid leave
Paid Family and Medical Leave gives Washington employees a way to take paid time off to care for themselves or a family member.
Employers don’t have to worry about managing your employee’s claim or figuring out if they are eligible. Employees apply for paid leave directly with the state.
Your employees are eligible to take paid leave if:
- They or a family member experience a “qualifying event.” Qualifying events include serious illnesses or injuries that prevent someone from working, a new baby or child joining a family, and certain military-related events.
- They have worked enough hours to qualify for paid leave. Nearly every Washington worker can receive paid leave as long as they have worked a minimum of 820 hours (about 16 hours a week) in Washington during the qualifying period, which is about the previous year. The 820 hours can be at one job or combined from multiple jobs. That means if an employee of yours works for another company at the same time, the hours from both jobs are added together to determine eligibility for paid leave.
Certain employees are not automatically eligible for paid leave, including federal employees, self-employed people and employees of businesses located on tribal land. Union members who have collective bargaining agreements that haven’t been reopened or renegotiated since October 19, 2017, are not eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave.
How much time
12 weeks: In general, Washington workers are eligible for up to 12 weeks of Paid Family and Medical Leave per year. For people taking leave to recover from a serious illness or injury or to take care of a family member with a serious medical need, the amount of paid leave they can take is determined by a medical provider and based on the amount of time that is medically necessary.
People taking leave to bond with a new baby or child qualify for at least 12 weeks of paid leave.
16 weeks: Workers may qualify for up to 16 weeks of paid leave after giving birth to a baby or if they have a personal medical event and a family caregiving event in the same year—like recovering from a surgery and caring for an ill family member.
18 weeks: If someone experiences complications in pregnancy, they may be eligible for up to 18 weeks of paid leave.
Taking paid leave
A little at a time, or all at once: Employees do not have to take their paid leave all at once. For example, an employee can take one day off a week to care for a family member undergoing chemotherapy treatment, or they can take their leave in two longer chunks of time if they have two separate qualifying events.
At least 8 hours: When employees take paid leave, they have to take at least eight hours off in a row. That’s one day for full-time employees but may be more than one day for people working part time.
One year to use it: Employees can use the paid leave they qualify for at any time in the year after their leave starts. But if they don’t use it all within one year, unused time will not carry over into the next year. They can apply again for paid leave in the following year if they have another qualifying event.
How it’s funded
Paid Family and Medical Leave is funded through premiums paid by both employees and employers. The premium is 0.4 percent of employees’ gross wages, with the contribution divided between the employee and the employer. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer portion of the premium, but they still collect and submit the employees’ share of the premium, and their employees are fully eligible for the benefit.
Providing additional benefits
Employers have the option to provide additional benefits on top of the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program. For example, you can offer employees additional time off to bond with a new baby, additional wages to replace wages lost while they are on leave, or job protection for people whose jobs are not automatically protected through the state law.
As an employer, you play an important role. All employers must submit reports and pay premiums to the state each quarter. You are also required to notify your employees about the program.
Your reports provide important information that helps ensure your employees can take paid leave. Your premium payments keep the benefit strong for people and families in your community and across Washington. And the information you share with employees makes sure they know about paid leave so they can use it when they need it most.
1. Calculate and collect premiums
Paid Family and Medical Leave is funded by premiums paid by employees and employers.
The Paid Family and Medical Leave premium is 0.4 percent of each employee’s gross wages, not including tips, up to the Social Security cap ($137,700 in 2020). This premium is divided between the employer and the employee as follows:
Employee premium (mandatory for all employees): About ⅔ of the premium (63.333%) can be paid by the employee. Employers are required to either withhold this amount from each employee’s paycheck or pay it on their employees’ behalf. Employers then submit this portion of the premium to the state along with their quarterly reports.
Employer premium (mandatory for businesses with 50+ employees): About ⅓ of the premium (36.667%) is the employer’s share. If your business has 50 or more employees, you must pay the employer share of the premium. If you have fewer than 50 employees, the employer premium is optional. If your small business chooses to pay the employer share of the premium, you can receive additional benefits for your business.
2. Every quarter: Pay premiums and report hours and wages
Every quarter, all employers must complete and file a report and pay premiums to the Employment Security Department. Here’s what your report and payment should include:
- Basic details about your business and employees
- Each employee’s total hours worked
- Each employee’s total wages
- Your quarterly premium payment
Ready to complete your quarterly report?
3. Notify your employees
Under the law, you are required to inform your employees about the Paid Family and Medical Leave program by posting a notice in a place customarily used to post other employment-related notices. Please download, print and post the mandatory poster provided below.
You may also want to share a paystub insert with them to explain the withholding.
Both documents are available in multiple languages.
Download the mandatory poster
Download the optional paystub insert
4. Responsibilities when an employee is eligible for paid leave
Application and notice: When an employee is eligible for paid leave, they will apply for leave directly with the state. If the employee’s leave is expected (for example, they are expecting a baby), they must give you written notice at least 30 days in advance. If the leave is unexpected (for example, the employee’s spouse is in a serious car crash), the employee must give you notice as soon as they are able. The written notice should let you know the employee needs to take paid family or medical leave and about how long they expect to be out. Emails, text messages and handwritten notes all count as written notice.
Let your employees know they may qualify for paid leave: When you become aware that an employee is taking time off for more than seven consecutive days of work to care for a family member or their own serious health condition, you must let the employee know they may qualify for Paid Family and Medical Leave. Use the notice created by the state, and send it to your employee within five business days.
You’ll be notified: The state will notify you of the employee’s application for paid leave. Contact our customer care team at (833) 717-2273 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about the employee’s claim for leave or would like to dispute it.
Job protection: If you have 50 or more employees, the employee is eligible for job protection provided they have worked for you for 12 months or longer and have worked 1,250 hours in the year before the first day they take paid leave.