How does Paid Family and Medical Leave work?

  • Am I eligible for benefits?

    Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits will be available starting Jan. 1, 2020.

    There are two things that need to happen for you to be eligible to apply for benefits: you need to work 820 hours in the qualifying period and experience a qualifying event.

    Qualifying period

    The "qualifying period" is the first four of the last five consecutive calendar quarters.

    Nearly all employers in Washington began reporting their employees’ names, gross wages and hours worked (among other things) to our program on July 1, 2019. They will continue to submit these reports every three months following this schedule:

    Reporting quarter Report due
    January, February, March (quarter one) April 30
    April, May, June (quarter two) July 31
    July, August, September (quarter three) October 31
    October, November, December (quarter four) January 31

    When you apply for benefits, we will look at the total number of hours your employer(s) reported for you in the qualifying period to determine if you are eligible for benefits. You must work 820 hours in the four quarters we look at, but the hours you work are cumulative across employers, so if you have more than one job, the hours you work at every employer are added together. During the benefit application process, you'll be able to see what your employer reported for you and let us know if you think they made a mistake.

    Qualifying event

    For medical leave, a qualifying event is your own serious health condition, illness or injury that causes you to be unable to work. As part of the application process, you will need your healthcare provider to complete and sign our Serious Health Condition Certification form certifying that your illness or injury meets the definition of "serious health condition" under the Paid Family and Medical Leave law.

    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 for:
      • An illness or injury that incapacitated you for three or more consecutive days.
      • A chronic serious health condition (like diabetes or epilepsy).
      • Incapacity during pregnancy or for prenatal care.
      • Treatment for substance abuse.
      • Any period of absence from work to receive treatments and recover, like for radiation, chemotherapy or dialysis.

    Ultimately, it is your healthcare provider's responsibility to determine whether your illness or injury meets the legal definition of a "serious health condition".

    For family leave, a qualifying event could be a family member's serious health condition (as certified by their healthcare provider using the same definition and process listed above), the birth or placement (adoption or foster) of a child under the age of 18, or certain activities related to a family member's military duty.

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  • What do the benefits cover?

    When the benefits of Paid Family and Medical Leave become available in 2020, if you are eligible, you will be entitled to take up to 12 weeks (18 weeks in limited special circumstances) of paid leave. Washington's law includes partial wage replacement, and your benefits will depend on how much you earn in a typical week. 

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  • How much does it cost?

    Paid Family and Medical Leave is an insurance program funded through premiums paid by nearly everyone working in Washington and many of their employers. The rate for 2019 is 0.4 percent of a worker's wage, about 63 percent of which is paid by the worker and about 37 percent is paid by the employer. Employers can opt to cover some or all their employees' premiums. Premium collection began on Jan. 1, 2019. 

    Example: 

    • A worker makes $50,000 a year.
      • Worker pays about $2.44 a week.
      • Their employer pays about $1.41 a week.
      • Worker receives a benefit of about $731 per week when out on Paid Family and Medical Leave.

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  • Is participation in the program mandatory?

    Generally, yes: Nearly everyone who works in Washington will participate in the program.

    Exceptions include workers who are:

    • Federal employees
    • Employed by a federally recognized tribe
    • Self-employed

    Important details:

    • Self-employed people may opt in to gain access to the benefit.
    • Employees covered under a CBA that was in existence on or before Oct. 19, 2017 are not subject to the rights or responsibilities of paid family and medical leave until the agreement is reopened, renegotiated, or expires. You will not pay premiums or be eligible for leave until the CBA is reopened, renegotiated, or expires.
    • Some employers may choose to offer benefits through a private plan called a voluntary plan. If your employer has an approved voluntary plan, they are required to offer benefits that are equal to or greater than the state plan.
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