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Individuals & Families

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Qualifying for paid leave

What is family leave?

Family leave is used to take paid time off to:

  • Care for a family member with a serious health condition.
  • Bond with a new child born or placed into your family.
  • Spend time with a family member who is about to be deployed overseas or is returning from overseas deployment.


What is medical leave?

Medical leave is for when your own serious health condition prevents you from working.

For example, you can qualify because of a major surgery, for bed rest during pregnancy, to receive treatment for a chronic health condition and to receive inpatient treatment for substance abuse or mental health. The amount of Paid Leave you can take is determined by your medical provider.

When can you take paid leave?

You can take paid leave when:

  • A serious health condition prevents you from working (medical leave)
  • You are caring for a family member with a serious health condition (family leave)
  • You have given birth (medical leave, which can be combined with family leave to bond with your baby, for a total of 16 weeks of leave. An additional 2 weeks can be approved due to pregnancy-related complications).
  • You are taking time to bond with a new child born to you, or who you are adopting or fostering (family leave)
  • When you want to spend time with a family member in the military who is home on leave or is soon to be deployed (family leave)

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

Full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal work counts. For eligible employees, all the hours you work in Washington count toward eligibility, even if you work multiple jobs or switch employers.

Certain workers are not automatically eligible.

Who is considered a family member?

These are the family members that qualify you to take family leave:

  • 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)
  • Son-in-law and daughter-in-law

Beginning July 25: You can qualify for family leave if you are caring for someone who has an expectation to rely on you for care—whether you live together or not.

We may require documentation about your relationship to the person or certification of their medical need.

Are all parents eligible to take leave when a child is born, adopted or placed in the home?

All parents are eligible! Moms, dads, non-birth parents and guardians are eligible for paid family leave to bond with a child coming into their home through birth, adoption or foster placement within 12 months of the date the child first is placed in the home.

What is a serious health condition?

A “serious health condition” is defined in RCW 50A.05.010. Generally, a serious health condition could include an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves:

Inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility, including any period of incapacity; or

Continuing treatment by a healthcare provider including any of the following:

Incapacity: A period of incapacity of more than three consecutive days and subsequent treatment or period of incapacity relating to the same condition. Incapacity means an inability to work, attend school, or perform other regular daily activities because of a serious health condition, treatment of that condition or recovery from it, or subsequent treatment.

Pregnancy: Any period of incapacity due to pregnancy, or for prenatal care.

Chronic conditions: Any period of incapacity or treatment for such incapacity due to a chronic serious health condition. A chronic serious health condition is one which:

  • Continues over an extended period of time, including recurring episodes of a single underlying condition;
  • Requires periodic visits to a health care provider; and
  • May cause episodic rather than a continuing period of incapacity, including asthma, diabetes, and epilepsy
  • Permanent/Long-term: A period of incapacity which is permanent or long-term due to a condition for which treatment may not be effective. The employee or family member must be under the continuing supervision of, but need not be receiving active treatment by, a health care provider, including
  • Alzheimer’s, a severe stroke, or the terminal stages of a disease; or
  • Multiple treatments: Any period of absence to receive multiple treatments, including any period of recovery from the treatments.
  • Substance abuse may be a serious health condition if the treatment meets other requirements in this definition.

Who is not eligible for paid leave?

Certain workers are not always eligible for Paid Leave:

  • Federal employees
  • People employed by businesses located on Tribal land
  • Self-employed people who choose not to opt into the state program
  • If you are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that hasn’t expired, been reopened, or renegotiated since Oct. 19, 2017, you may not be eligible yet. Ask your employer or union representative if you are unsure if this applies to you.
  • If you work for an employer with an approved voluntary plan you may not be eligible to use the state plan, but you would be able to use your employer’s benefits.

What is a qualifying event?

A qualifying event is the thing that happens for which you need to take leave. Not all illnesses, injuries or situations will qualify you to take Paid Family and Medical Leave. The law says, “paid family leave [is] for the birth or placement of a child with the employee, for the care of a family member who has a serious health condition, and for a qualifying exigency under the federal family and medical leave act,” and “paid medical leave [is] for an employee’s own serious health condition.”

What is a qualifying period?

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

Was your work impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic? If you worked fewer hours due to the pandemic, you may still be eligible for leave. More info coming soon!

If you were denied for not having hours, and would have used Paid Leave Jan. 3, 2021 or later
Starting August 1, 2021, log in to your Paid Leave account and submit a Request for Review.

  1. From your account homepage, select the “Request for Review” link in the “Take Action” box.
  2. Select the topic “Employment History” and then select the claim number listed on the top right corner of this letter.
  3. Follow the instructions on the screen and upload any additional information, if needed.
    Once you submit your request, we will review it and send you a new decision letter in a few weeks.

Do I need to be employed to take Paid Family and Medical Leave?

No. As long as you have worked enough hours in the qualifying period, you can use Paid Family and Medical Leave. You cannot, however, claim Unemployment Insurance or workers’ compensation benefits and Paid Family and Medical Leave at the same time.

How much time can I take?

Your total hours of leave are 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, creating a bank of hours you can draw from while on leave.

Your duration of leave is the amount of time you are approved for based on your healthcare provider’s certification, or the length of time that is standard for your event (such as 12 weeks for family leave).

What are typical workweek hours?

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.

Do I have to take all of my leave at once?

No. You can take as little as eight consecutive hours per week. For example, you could take two days off per week for chemotherapy treatment, or one day off each week to care for a parent with Alzheimer’s. Consecutive hours can cover two shifts. For example, if you need the last four hours of a shift to get a treatment and the first four hours of the following shift to continue that treatment, that counts as eight consecutive hours.

What documents are accepted for proof of identity?

See the list here.

When should I apply?

You should apply during the two weeks after your event takes place. We are not able to approve applications before the qualifying event. You may be able to backdate your claim if you have a good cause reason to do so, such as being hospitalized or otherwise incapacitated. Please call the Customer Care Team to find out if your circumstances qualify as “good cause.”