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 participate with few exceptions.


    In rare cases, an employer may be granted a conditional premium waiver for an employee who meets three specific conditions. Learn more on the conditional waivers page

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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.


    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 a calculated percentage of the employee's gross wages.

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  • How is the program funded?

    Washington's Paid Family and Medical Leave Program is organized as an insurance program with the cost of premiums split between employers and employees. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2019, employers began collecting Paid Family and Medical Leave premiums from employee paychecks or chose to cover their employee's share of the premium on their behalf. The initial premium is 0.4 percent and can be adjusted annually after 2020 by ESD, according to rules in statute.

    Read more on calculating and paying premiums.

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  • Is participation in the program mandatory?

    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.

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