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Find answers to your questions about paid leave.

We’re here for you.

When life’s big moments happen—like a parent gets sick or a family member in the military is coming home from deployment—Paid Family and Medical Leave is here for you. The benefit is new for workers in Washington. Find answers to your questions about what it is, how it’s used and how it’s different from other types of leave.

Have questions about COVID-19 (coronavirus)?

Go to the COVID-19 web page for more information.

Qualifying for paid leave

How much paid leave do I qualify for?

How much time you’ll qualify for is based on what kind of event you’re experiencing. Find out more about which situations qualify you for leave.

For serious health conditions like illnesses and injuries, a healthcare provider will determine the amount of leave you get based on your or your family member’s medical needs.

After I qualify, how long do I have to wait to get my benefit payment?

We will send your first payment within 14 days of a properly filed weekly claim.

Ensuring your application and documentation are complete will help with faster processing.

Does Paid Family and Medical Leave give paid time off to both parents in a family to bond with a new child?

Yes—all new parents can apply for up to 12 weeks of leave to bond with a newborn, adopted or foster child younger than 18 years old.

If you give birth to a baby, you can apply for up to 16 weeks of paid leave. If you experience complications in pregnancy, you may be eligible for up to 18 weeks of paid time off.

What happens if I experience more than one qualifying event in the same year?

You may qualify for up to 16 weeks of leave if you experience both a family event and a personal medical event in the same year (for example, if you have a major surgery in the same year that your parent is diagnosed with a serious illness). A medical provider will still determine how much leave is medically necessary for each qualifying event.

Can more than one person in a family take time off to care for a family member who is sick or injured?

Yes. As long as each person meets the eligibility requirements and applies for leave independently, multiple family members can take time off to care for a family member who is sick or injured.

For example, if your parent is diagnosed with cancer, you and your sibling can both take paid leave to care for them during treatment. Because you don’t have to use your leave all at once, you can take leave at the same time or rotate who is taking care of your parent.

I work more than one job. Do I qualify?

Nearly every Washington worker can receive 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.

I switched jobs in the last year. Do I qualify?

Nearly every Washington worker can receive 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. So, if you switched jobs but still worked 820 hours total, you can still get paid leave.

If you have been at your job for less than a year, your employer is not required to keep your job for you when you take paid leave.

The amount of time I work changes a lot from week to week or season to season. If I qualify for paid leave, how many hours per week of paid time off will I get?

If your work hours are not consistent (for example, you work more during the holidays or during harvest seasons), the number of hours of paid time off you will receive per week is based on the times of year you worked the most.

The state will use information provided by your employer(s) to figure out how much leave you qualify for. Every quarter, employers report how many hours every employee worked. The state will look at how many hours you worked during the first four of the last five quarters. We will use the two quarters when you worked the most to determine how many hours of paid leave you will receive.

I am currently unemployed. Do I qualify for paid leave?

If you worked 820 hours in the qualifying period, which is about the last year, you can still qualify for paid leave even if you are currently unemployed.

You cannot use Paid Family and Medical Leave and Unemployment Insurance at the same time.

I work for the federal government. Can I qualify for paid leave?

Federal government jobs are not covered by Paid Family and Medical Leave. However, if you are a federal employee who has worked at least 820 hours at a non-federal job in Washington during the last year, you can qualify for paid leave through your other job.

I am a union member. How does Paid Family and Medical Leave apply to me?

If you are a union member covered by a collective bargaining agreement that hasn’t been reopened, renegotiated or expired since October 19, 2017, you are not eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave.

If your collective bargaining agreement has been reopened, renegotiated or expired since October 19, 2017, you are eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave.

Can I qualify for Paid Family and Medical Leave if I’m self-employed?

Yes, but you have to opt in. To opt in, you agree to pay the employee share of the Paid Family and Medical Leave premium (about 0.25% of your income) for three years. After that, you can participate on an annual basis. You also need to report your wages to the Employment Security Department every quarter.

You can qualify for paid leave in 2020 as long as you commit to contributing a premium for three years and meet other eligibility requirements. Learn more about opting in.

I work for a business that is located on tribal land. Do I qualify for paid leave?

If the business you work for is located on land owned by a federally recognized tribe, you may not be eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave.

If the business is owned by a tribal government, the tribal government can choose to opt in to the state program. When a tribal government opts in, all employees of that tribe and its businesses are eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave.

If the business is owned by a member of a tribe, the business cannot opt in and employees are not eligible for paid leave.

Learn more about how paid leave works for businesses on tribal land.

My employer offers their own paid family and medical leave benefits. Do I still qualify for the state program?

It depends on the benefits your employer offers.

Some employers offer what is known as a “voluntary plan.” This is a paid leave plan that has been approved by the state. If your employer offers this type of paid leave plan, you do not qualify for the state program, but their plan is required to provide benefits that are greater than or equal to the state plan.

If your employer offers “supplemental benefits”—paid leave benefits in addition to the state plan—you still qualify for the state program, plus you’ll receive additional benefits (such as extra time off or more pay) from your employer.

Talk to your employer or your human resources department to understand what your company offers.

Accepted forms of identification

What documents are accepted for proof of identity?

 You will need to provide identification verification documents with your Paid Family and Medical Leave application. Identification verification documents must also be provided for any authorized designated representative. Do not send originals.

Stand-alone documents (1 of these):

  • Any valid United States government (federal or state) issued form of identification (i.e., passport, passport card, ID card, driver’s license, B1/B2 Visa Border Crossing Card, etc.)
  • Any valid United States Citizenship and Immigration Service ID. Acceptable forms are:
    • I-327 U.S. Permit to Re-Enter Travel Document
    • I-551 Permanent Resident Card
    • I-571 U.S. Refugee Travel Document
    • I-766 Employment Authorization
  • Any valid foreign government issued form of identification (i.e. passport, consular ID card, national identification card or “cedula” with signature and photo, etc.)
  • Any valid enrollment ID card from a federally recognized Indian tribe—it must have your signature and photo
  • Any valid U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs issued ID card, with signature and photo

Alternate documents (2 of these):

  • Any expired United States government (federal or state) issued form of identification (i.e. passport, passport card, ID card, driver’s license, B1/B2 Visa Border Crossing Card, armed services ID card, etc.)
  • Any expired United States Citizenship and Immigration Service ID. Acceptable forms are:
    • I-327 U.S. Permit to Re-Enter Travel Document
    • I-551 Permanent Resident Card
    • I-571 U.S. Refugee Travel Document
    • I-766 Employment Authorization
  • Any expired foreign government issued form of identification (i.e. passport, consular ID card, national identification card or “cedula” with signature and photo, etc.)
  • Adoption papers
  • Birth certificate, U.S., or foreign — Certified
  • Birth registration card that includes your name, date of birth, place of birth, file date, and issue date — Certified
  • Concealed weapons permit issued by a state or county agency — Valid
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad
  • Ward of the Court decree/Order of Dependency
  • Clearance letter or driving record from a state DMV
  • Divorce decree, certified by the issuing government authority
  • Marriage license/certificate, certified by the issuing government authority
  • Professional license (nurse, physician, engineer, etc.)
  • School transcript or record
  • Valid student identification card issued by a nationally accredited college or university
  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)
  • Vehicle registration or title (a quick title isn’t acceptable)
  • Home utility bill (gas, electric, water, garbage, sewer, landline phone, TV, internet, ISTA)
  • DSHS benefits letter (medical, food, etc.)
  • Proof of home ownership (mortgage documents, property tax documents, deed, title, etc.)
  • Business mail from a state, federal, tribal, county, or city government entity
  • Home owner’s or renter’s insurance policy
  • Auto insurance policy or bill
  • Paycheck or pay stub with the employer’s name and phone number or address
  • W-2 form from an employer, or form 1099
  • Moorage document (bill, contract, etc.)

Paid sick days, FMLA and other programs

How is Paid Family and Medical Leave different from paid sick days?

Paid Family and Medical Leave is for times when something major keeps you away from work. Paid sick days can be used for less serious or short-term health conditions that keep you from working, typically for less than a week.

With Paid Family and Medical Leave, unless you welcomed a new child into your family, there is a “waiting week” before you can begin receiving your benefit payment. 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). Claim weeks always start on Sunday and end the following Saturday. 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, without impact on your Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits. If the first week of your paid family or medical leave happens before you receive your approval letter and are able to begin filing weekly claims, that first week still counts as your waiting week.

Is Paid Family and Medical Leave the same as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

These programs are different.

 The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that allows some employees to take unpaid leave for family and medical reasons. It only applies to people who work for businesses with 50 or more employees.

Paid Family and Medical Leave is a new state insurance program in Washington that provides paid leave for people when they need to care for themselves or a family member after childbirth or a serious illness or injury, or for certain military-connected events. It applies to just about every business and employee in Washington.

How does this work with FMLA?

The use of FMLA does not reduce your allowed Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit, so it is possible to use both types of leave. It is important to note that Paid Family and Medical Leave and FMLA can usually run concurrently too, since many Paid Family and Medical Leave events also qualify for FMLA.

Do I have to use other leave, like vacation or sick time, before I use Paid Family and Medical Leave?

No. Your employer cannot require you to use Paid Family and Medical Leave before or after other paid or unpaid time off you might have, like paid sick days or vacation leave. Taking Paid Family and Medical Leave is entirely up to you.

Your rights

Do I have the right to take time off using Paid Family and Medical Leave?

If you’re employed in Washington and meet all the requirements, you have the right to take paid time off using Paid Family and Medical Leave.

What medical information am I required to share with my employer in order to qualify for paid leave?

You don’t have to share any medical information with your employer if you don’t want to. Your healthcare provider will help to determine how much time you need to take off to care for yourself or a family member. That information will only be shared with the State of Washington’s Employment Security Department.

When you apply for Paid Leave, your employer will receive a letter with some information from the state: the date you applied, the expected start and end dates of your Paid Leave, and the date you indicated you provided them notice. Your employer will also receive a letter once your application is approved or denied letter. This letter does not include personal medical information.

Can I lose my job if I take paid time off through Paid Family and Medical Leave?

Depending on the size of the company you work for and the amount of time you’ve been employed, your employer may not be required to keep your job for you. Learn more about returning to work.

What happens to my health insurance while I am on leave?

The department is continuing to develop administrative rules around this topic and will have more information soon. 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.

Guidance around the continuation of health care coverage will be provided in the near future.

Who can help me apply if I’m unable to apply for myself?

You can give someone else permission to help you apply for paid leave by completing the Authorized Representative Designation form. Contact our customer care team at (833) 717-2273 for help or to receive the form.

If you are unable to provide written permission for someone else to apply for you, your healthcare provider can help by confirming in writing that you are unable to complete the form yourself.

These people can also apply for leave on your behalf:

  • A court-appointed legal guardian
  • A person with power of attorney

Military families

How does Paid Family and Medical Leave work for military families?

If you have a family member in the military, you may qualify for paid leave to spend time with them if they are about to be deployed to another country or while they are home for R&R.

You can take leave through Paid Family and Medical Leave for the same reasons (or “exigencies”) as the federal Family Medical Leave Act. View a full list of exigencies that qualify military family members for Paid Family and Medical Leave.

Which military family members qualify for paid leave?

The following family members of a person in the military can take paid leave:

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

Multiple people can take paid leave to spend time with a family member in the military. For example, if a military member has two siblings and two parents in Washington who qualify for paid leave, they can all apply for paid leave and take their leave before the military member is deployed abroad.

What documentation do I need to share to qualify for Paid Family and Medical Leave?

● Your family member’s active duty orders
● Time and dates you’ll need leave

Costs (premiums) and taxes

How much does Paid Family and Medical Leave cost?

Paid Family and Medical Leave is funded by a small premium that’s collected from your paycheck. How much you pay depends on how much you earn. For example, if you make $50,000 a year, you pay about $2.44 per week through payroll deductions. Employers help pay for the program, too.

Do I have to pay taxes on the benefits I receive during leave?

The IRS is working to determine whether the money you make while on Paid Family and Medical Leave will be taxed by the federal government.

Applying for Paid Leave

For answers to technical questions about online benefit accounts, visit our technical support page.