Find out how paid leave works

When you need it most.

Paid Family and Medical Leave provides paid time off when you need it most. It’s here for you when a serious health condition prevents you from working or when you need time to care for a family member or a new child, or for certain military-related events.

When can you take paid leave?

Paid Family and Medical Leave is available when you need time off to care for yourself or a family member. There are three main types of paid leave available. Each one is related to a different type of “qualifying event”—the thing that happens to you or a family member that qualifies you for paid leave.

Medical Leave

Medical leave is here for you when a serious health condition prevents you from working. Medical leave covers a wide range of serious health needs. For example, you can qualify because of a major surgery, after giving birth to a baby, for bed rest during pregnancy, to receive treatment for a chronic health condition, and to receive inpatient treatment for substance abuse or mental health.

Family Leave

Family leave is here for you when you need to take time off to care for a family member. If your family member has a serious health condition that would qualify them for medical leave, or if you’re welcoming a new baby or child into your family, that’s when you can take family leave.

Military Family Leave

Military family leave is here for you to allow you to spend time with a family member in the military. If your family member is about to be deployed overseas or is returning from overseas deployment, that’s when you can take this type of family leave.


Using paid leave to care for a family member

If your family member has a serious health condition or injury or is in the military, you may qualify for paid leave to be with them.

These are the family members you can take paid leave to care for:

  • Spouses and domestic partners
  • Children (biological, adopted, foster or stepchild)
  • Parents and legal guardians (or spouse’s parents)
  • Siblings
  • Grandchildren
  • Grandparents (or spouse’s grandparents)

Who can take paid leave

Nearly every Washington worker can qualify for paid leave as long as you work a minimum of 820 hours (about 16 hours a week) in Washington during the qualifying period, which is about the last year. The 820 hours can be at one job or combined from multiple jobs.

To be eligible, you only need to have worked in Washington the 820 hours, experienced a qualifying event and be able to provide proof of identification. Many documents can be used to prove your identity, including school transcripts and birth certificates from other countries. Download the full list of accepted documents.

Certain workers are not automatically eligible for paid leave, including:

  • Federal employees
  • People employed by businesses located on tribal land (see below)
  • Self-employed people who choose not to opt in to the state program
  • Union members subject to older collective bargaining agreements (see below)

Businesses that are located on tribal land and are owned by the government of a federally recognized tribe need to opt in for their employees to receive paid leave. Employees of businesses that are located on tribal land and are owned by a member of a federally recognized tribe are not eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave through the state plan.

Union members who have collective bargaining agreements that haven’t been re-opened, renegotiated or expired since October 19, 2017, also may not be eligible. Ask your employer or union representative if you are unsure if this applies to you.

How much time you can take and when you can take it

Most Washington workers are eligible for up to 12 weeks of Paid Family and Medical Leave a year. Some people may qualify for up to 16 or 18 weeks of paid leave. You don’t have to use your leave all at once. For example, you can take one day off a week to care for a family member receiving chemotherapy treatment.

Taking leave to bond with a new child

If you are taking leave to bond with a new baby or child, you qualify for 12 weeks of paid leave. If you give birth to a baby, you qualify for up to 16 weeks of combined medical and family leave. An additional two weeks is possible if you experience incapacity due to your pregnancy.

Taking leave for a serious injury or illness

If you are taking leave because of a serious injury or illness—or to take care of a family member with a serious medical need—the amount of paid leave you can take is determined by your or your family member’s medical provider and based on the amount of time that is medically necessary. (Up to 12 weeks a year.)

You may qualify for up to 16 weeks of paid leave if you 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, or giving birth and then taking time to bond with your new baby.

How to use your paid leave

At least 8 hours: When you use your paid leave, you have to take at least eight hours off in row. That’s one day for full-time employees but may be more than one day if you work part time.

Typical work week: Your duration of leave is determined based on your “typical workweek hours.” This is your average number of hours worked per week since the beginning of the qualifying period. Salaried, full-time employees are always calculated at 40 hours per week. Your typical workweek hours are multiplied by the maximum number of weeks allowable for the event, usually 12 weeks, creating a bank of hours you can draw from while on leave.

One year: You can use paid leave for a year after your leave starts (or, if you have a baby or new child, one year after they join your family). If you don’t use it all within one year, it will not carry over into the next year.

Waiting week: Your “waiting week” is the first week you are approved to file a weekly claim and you will not be paid for that week (this does not apply to leave to bond with a new child). If your qualifying event occurs after Sunday in the first week you need to take leave, the waiting week may be less than a week. During this time, you may use paid time off from your employer, including paid vacation or sick days. For more on the waiting week, go to our more answers page.

Your payments

When you take paid leave, you will receive up to 90 percent of your weekly pay—up to a maximum of $1,000 a week.

Use our calculator to find out about how much your pay could be.

Estimate my pay


What to expect after you apply

After you submit your application, Paid Family and Medical Leave program staff will review it to:

  • make sure you have worked enough hours to qualify;
  • confirm that your event qualifies for paid leave;
  • record the length of leave that your medical provider has certified (for your own medical leave or leave to take care of a family member for medical reasons); and
  • determine how much pay you are eligible to receive during your leave.

Please be sure you have submitted a complete and accurate application, including all required paperwork and proof of identification as this will help us process your application faster.

Processing your claim: We are excited to see demand for the new program, but that demand has led to a high volume of applications. Processing times are dependent on volume. Visit the “After you apply” page for more information.


Receiving your weekly pay

You have two options for receiving your weekly pay: as a direct deposit to your bank (only available if you file online), or as a prepaid card (like a gift card you can use anywhere).

During your leave, you’ll login to your account and file a claim each week that you take time off to receive your pay. This should only take a few minutes. The claim will include the days and hours when you used your paid leave. You can also submit your claims by calling the Customer Care Team.

To learn more, watch this short video on filing weekly claims.


Returning to work

When it’s time to return to work, you have rights. But your employer may not be required to keep your job for you.

Your employer is not required to keep your job for you if any of the following is true:

  • You work for a company that employs less than 50 people
  • You’ve worked for that company for less than a year
  • You’ve worked less than 1,250 hours (about 24 hours a week) for that company in the year before you took leave

Continuation of health insurance: The department is continuing to develop administrative rules around the continuation of health insurance and will have more information soon. Here are some important things to know now:

  • Nothing prevents your employer from maintaining any of your benefits while you take Paid Family and Medical Leave so please ask your employer if they will continue your health coverage while on leave.
  • If you are responsible for paying some of the health insurance premium, your employer can require that you continue to pay your share.
  • If you are using the federal FMLA program at the same time as Paid Family and Medical Leave, and your employer is required to continue your health insurance under FMLA, then that requirement still applies.
  • Further guidance around the continuation of health care coverage for Paid family and Medical Leave will be provided in the near future.
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