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How Paid Leave works

Which employers and employees are covered by the program?

Almost every Washington employer must participate in this program, and almost every Washington employee will be eligible to receive benefits. This includes businesses of all sizes and non-profits, charities and faith organizations. If you are a public or private business with even one employee in Washington, you’ll very likely be a part of Paid Family and Medical Leave.

Exceptions:

  • Federally recognized tribes (option to participate; see paidleave.wa.gov/tribal-businesses)
  • Federal employees
  • Self-employed individuals (option to participate; see paidleave.wa.gov/elective-coverage)
  • Some employees subject to collective bargaining agreements
  • Individuals who perform “casual labor” as defined by law (may not opt in as your employee but can participate with other employers if they have enough qualifying hours)

Learn more about collective bargaining agreements.

Conditional Waivers:
Employers can apply for a conditional premium waiver if a worker meets all three of the following requirements:

  • Physically based outside of the state of Washington; and
  • Employed in Washington state on a limited or temporary basis; and
  • Not expected to be employed by any employer in the state for 820 hours or more in four consecutive reporting quarters.
    • If an employee works more than 820 hours with any employer in the state of Washington over four consecutive quarters, employers will owe the total cost of the premiums that would have been paid for that worker.

Please see paidleave.wa.gov/waivers for more information.

Who is eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave? Can part-time or seasonal employees take leave?

Nearly every Washington worker can qualify for Paid Family and Medical Leave as long as they worked a minimum of 820 hours (about 16 hours a week) in Washington over the last year.

Full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal work counts. All the hours an employee works in Washington count toward eligibility, even if they work multiple jobs or switch employers. The 820 hours can be at one job or combined from multiple jobs.

Can a previous employee apply for benefits?

An employee can be still be eligible for benefits even if they are no longer employed by a company as long as they meet all eligibility criteria. As an employer, you will not be penalized for previous employees taking their Paid Leave benefits.

What notification do I need to provide my employees about this program?

A workplace poster is required to be posted in the workplace and can be downloaded here. You must notify your employees in writing and in a timely manner of Paid Family and Medical Leave when they are on leave for reasons that could be covered by the program. When an employee has been away from work for seven consecutive days and for reasons that could be covered by this program, you have five days to provide this notice. This notice, created by the department, is available to download on our website at paidleave.wa.gov/employers.

Do I have to use a paystub insert to notify employees about Paid Family and Medical Leave?

You are not required to use the paystub insert to notify employees about the program. If you choose to deduct premiums from your employee’s paycheck, you may want to share the paystub insert with them to explain the withholding. If you previously paid your employees’ share for them and decide to start withholding it from their pay instead, you are required to notify them in writing at least one pay period before you start the withholding, and you cannot retroactively withhold premiums for past pay periods.

How much time can my employees take?

Eligible workers in Washington can take up to 12 weeks of medical leave or family leave, or up to 16 to 18 weeks of combined medical and family leave in a year.

The duration of an employee’s leave is the amount of time for which they are approved based on their healthcare provider’s certification, or the length of time that is standard for their event (like 12 weeks for family leave).

They do not have to take their leave all at once. For example, they may take two days a week for ongoing treatments related to a serious health condition.

How many hours are in a week of leave?

An employee’s total hours of leave are based on their “typical workweek hours.” This is the average number of hours worked per week during the qualifying period. Salaried, full-time employees are always calculated at 40 hours per week.

Typical workweek hours are multiplied by the maximum number of weeks approved for that type of leave, creating a bank of hours the employee can draw from while on leave. For example, if an employee’s typical workweek hours are 35, they will be eligible for 12 times that amount in total paid leave.

Employees may take their approved leave in full weeks or intermittently as needed. They are approved for a limited number of hours of leave that they may exhaust before their approved leave end date (depending on how they use the leave). Once their leave is exhausted, the job protection rights under Paid Family and Medical Leave are also exhausted.

If the employee uses all of their Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits, they must wait until the claim year expires to apply for benefits again.

What is a qualifying period?

The first four of the last five completed calendar quarters or, if that does not get a person to the required 820 hours, the last four completed calendar quarters immediately preceding the application for leave.

What does my employee need to do when they need to take leave?

When a worker chooses to use Paid Family and Medical Leave, they must provide 30 days’ written notice to you when they are able to. When 30 days’ notice is not possible, they must give notice when practical. As an employer, you can waive this requirement for whatever reason you see fit.

While the employee should notify you 30 days before they plan to start their Paid Family and Medical Leave, they can only apply for leave after they have their qualifying event (birth, onset of illness or injury, etc.).

What notifications will I receive about my employee’s leave?

You will receive a notification from us when a current employee applies for Paid Family and Medical Leave. This notice will include:

  • Current employee’s name
  • Last four digits of their Social Security number
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave customer ID
  • Anticipated leave dates
  • The date they provided you notice, or if no notice was given

When you receive the first notice, you have 18 days to contest their claim. If you do not respond, you are waiving your objection to the application.

You will also receive a notification when your employee’s application is approved or denied. This will include:

  • Current employee’s name
  • Last four digits of their Social Security number
  •  Paid Family and Medical Leave customer ID
  • Whether they were denied or approved for benefits
  • If their claim was approved: Their leave start date and the leave end date (if known).

You may also receive notices from us during the application process if we have questions related to your employee’s application. This may include verifying an employee’s hours and wages or the status of any CBA. Please respond to these notices by the deadline listed on each letter. The timeliness of your response may impact your employee’s leave.

Can an employee exhaust their FMLA leave and then take additional leave through Paid Family and Medical Leave?

An employee’s use of FMLA or other available leave does not diminish their available Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit. It is possible for an employee to use multiple leave options consecutively.

Can I require an employee to use other leave before using Paid Leave?

Can my employee receive short-term disability and Paid Family and Medical Leave at the same time?

Yes, a worker can receive short-term disability at the same time as Paid Family and Medical Leave. But short-term disability plans can have restrictions, so make sure the employee understands the requirements for accessing those benefits.

Can an employee backdate their claim?

  • Employees can backdate their claim for a “good cause” reason that prevented them from applying for Paid Family and Medical Leave immediately after their qualifying event. A “good cause” reason can be the result of a serious health condition, a period of incapacity or because of natural disaster.
  • The Certification of Serious Health Condition form may provide the information we need to determine if the employee is eligible to backdate their claim, but we may need additional information.

How much will my employee get paid while on leave?

Your employee will receive up to 90 percent of their weekly pay—up to a maximum of $1,000 a week (2020 figure. In 2021, the maximum amount is $1,206). Their maximum weekly benefit amount is what they’ll receive for any week they claim the full week. If a worker receives wages or paid time off at the same time as Paid Family and Medical Leave, it will reduce their benefit payment, unless the paid time off is designated a “supplemental benefit.”

Paid time off is vacation leave, personal leave, holiday, medical leave, sick leave, compensatory leave or any other paid leave offered by an employer under their established policy.

Can I pay my employees while they are using Paid Family and Medical Leave to make them whole?

You may pay your employees, for example in the form of designated PTO, to make them whole. Those payments are called “supplemental benefits” and they will not affect their Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit payment. Your employee’s benefit payment will be reduced if they use paid time off or receive wages not designated as supplemental benefits by you while they are also using Paid Family and Medical Leave. Please see the “Supplemental Benefits” section below for details.

It is your choice to offer supplemental benefits and you are not required to do so. If you choose to offer these benefits, it is also an employee’s choice to accept them.

Key information about supplemental benefits:

  • An employer can offer supplemental benefits in a variety of ways, including drawing down a bank of paid time off (PTO) to use as a supplemental benefit in order to “top off” their employee’s benefit payment. However, there are no limits on supplemental benefits, so you may also provide your employees a supplemental benefit that takes them beyond their usual wage.
  • Please make it clear to your employees what payments are a supplemental benefit and not regular PTO. Your employee should not report supplemental benefits on their weekly claim as doing so will reduce their benefit amount.
  • Management of supplemental benefits is entirely between you and your employees. It is only important to let them know if you offer them and when so employees don’t report these benefits on their weekly claim.
  • For privacy reasons, the department does not provide an employee’s benefit amount to employers. If you wish to offer a supplemental benefit and would like to know how much an employee is receiving from Paid Family and Medical Leave so you can “top off” their payment, please ask your employee for that information. It is included in the approval letter your employee will receive in the mail from the department.
  • Supplemental benefits are not considered gross wages and should not be included in quarterly reporting.

Am I required to hold an employee’s job while they take Paid Family and Medical Leave?

Employees who return from leave must be restored to the same or equivalent job if they work for an employer with 50 or more employees, have worked for this employer for at least 12 months, and have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking leave (about 24 hours per week, on average). An employee may also be protected under other local, state and federal laws. There are some circumstances where employers can deny job restoration.

Do my employees continue to get health benefits while on Paid Family and Medical Leave?

You are required to maintain existing health benefits for an employee receiving paid family or medical leave benefits if they have at least one day of overlap with leave taken under federal FMLA (WAC 192-700-020). Health benefits must continue without a break in coverage until the employee’s Paid Leave ends or the employee returns to work after taking their leave.

Nothing prevents an employer from maintaining a worker’s benefits while they take Paid Family and Medical Leave. If a worker is responsible for paying some of the health insurance premium, you can require that they continue to pay their share.