How Paid Leave works

How Paid Leave works

Paid time off for your employees when it's needed most

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It includes detailed information about how to calculate and collect premiums, submit your quarterly report and notify employees about the program.

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. You 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 ESD.

Your employees are eligible to take paid leave if:

1. 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.

2. 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 events.

Some Washington workers are not eligible for paid leave, including:

  • Federal employees
  • Self-employed people
  • Employees of businesses located on tribal land
  • Employees covered by certain collective bargaining agreements

Union members who have collective bargaining agreements that haven’t been reopened or renegotiated, or have expired since October 19, 2017, may not be eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave.

Does your business have collective bargaining agreements? Learn how these can affect your premiums.


Job protection:

If you have 50 or more employees, your employees are eligible for job protection for the duration of their leave, provided they have worked for you for 12 months or longer and have worked 1,250 hours (about 24 hours a week) in the year before the first day they take Paid Leave.


Continuation of health insurance:

Nothing prevents an employer from maintaining a worker’s benefits while they take Paid Family and Medical Leave.


Benefit application process:

1. Employee applies for Paid Leave: When an employee has a qualifying event, they will apply for leave directly with the state.

2. Employee notifies their employer that they plan to take leave—30 days prior, if possible: 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.

3. The state will notify you of your employee’s approved application for Paid Leave. The notice will include your employee’s name, leave start and end dates, and instructions for disputing the claim should you need to.

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 condition, the amount of Paid Leave they can take is determined by their healthcare 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 12 weeks of Paid Leave.

16 weeks:

Workers may qualify for up to 16 weeks of Paid Leave if they have more than one qualifying event—like giving birth to a baby and taking leave to bond with their new child— or if they have a personal medical event and a family caregiving event in the same year—like recovering from surgery and caring for an ill family member.

18 weeks:

If someone experiences a condition in pregnancy or birth that results in incapacity, 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 full weeks to recover from their own major surgery.

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 12 months after their application date.

  • Medical leave duration is based on what the medical provider deems medically necessary.
  • For family bonding leave, the employee has 12 months from the child’s date of birth or placement in the home to take their leave.
  • The employee can only use leave during their approved start and end dates, but multiple periods of leave can be approved during the year.
  • If they don’t use all of their leave within 12 months, unused time will not carry over into the next year. The employee 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 current premium is 0.4 percent of employees’ gross wages excluding tips, with the contribution divided between the employee and the employer. Small businesses that average fewer than 50 employees on their quarterly reports 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 may still be eligible for the full benefit.