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Washington Paid Leave: What Businesses Need to Know

Washington Paid Leave: What Businesses Need to Know

Employees in Washington have access to paid family leave under the Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (WA PFMLA). As such, employers must familiarize themselves with the requirements regarding Washington Paid Leave, including eligibility, duration of leave, rules regarding use, and premium collections. 

Here is everything Washington businesses need to know about WA Paid Leave.

Washington Paid Leave

Washington Paid Leave, otherwise referred to as its proper name Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (WA PFML), is a benefit for Washington State employees, so that in certain medical and family scenarios that would prevent someone from working, they may recieve paid time off. 

Washington PFMLA is just one of many Washington Labor Laws that employers in the state need to comply with.

Who is Eligible for WA Paid Leave?

In order to qualify for benefits under Washington Paid Leave, an employee must have worked for at least 820 hours in the state of Washington during the qualifying period

Washington Paid Leave defines the qualifying period as “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”.

Once an employee meets the requirement regarding hours worked, they must experience a qualifying event in order to take paid leave under WA PFML. Employers should ensure they understand what is considered hours worked in Washington State, in order to properly track leave eligibility. 

There are two types of PFML leave in Washington, Medical, and Parental.

Washington Medical Leave

Employees in Washington State can take paid medical leave under WA Paid Leave laws in order to care for their own serious health conditions

Serious health conditions include things such as: 

  • Major surgery
  • Pregnancy and related concerns
  • Treatment for a chronic health condition
  • Inpatient treatment for substance abuse or mental health

Washington Parental Leave and Family Leave

Employees in Washington State can take Paid Parental or Family Leave under WA Paid Leave laws in order to care for the serious health condition of family members as well as to take time to bond with a new baby or child in your family.  

This type of leave can also be taken in certain scenarios regarding military deployment (when a family member is being deployed or returning from deployment).

Washington Paid Family Leave may be used for (definitions of a family member):

  • 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
  • Someone who has an expectation to rely on you for care—whether you live together or not

Exceptions to WA Paid Leave

The following employees are not eligible for paid leave:

  • 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

How to Use Washington Paid Leave

There are certain rules in place about how an employee may use their benefits under Washington Paid Leave.

For starters, leave can be talent a little at a time or all at once. However, employees must take at least 8 hours of paid leave at a time. This is one day for full-time employees but may be more for part-time workers.

Finally, once an employee applies for paid leave they have 12 months from the application date to use it if approved. There is no carryover. 

Washington Paid Leave Duration

The duration of Washington Paid Leave depends on the paid leave being taken.

Employees generally are eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year if the leave is being taken to care for a serious health condition (of the employee or their family members) or if the leave is being taken to bond with a new baby or child.

It is important to note that for medical-related paid leave, the amount of paid leave you can take is determined by your medical provider (this can be up to 12 weeks a year).

If an employee has more than one qualifying event in a single calendar year, they may be eligible for up to 16 weeks.

Employees may also be eligible for up to 18 weeks of paid leave if the qualifying event is related to a condition in pregnancy or birth that results in incapacity.

Washington Paid Leave Compensation

Employees taking benefits under Washington Paid Leave will receive compensation up to 90% of their weekly pay—up to a maximum of $1,427 in 2023. See here for Washington State Minimum Wage Laws.

The Washington Paid Leave website has a calculator for employees to use to get estimates.

Employees may receive a direct deposit for their benefits only if they apply online.

Do Washington Paid Leave benefits have to be reported as third-party sick pay?

They do not. Washington State Employment Security Department (WA ESD), will issue the employee a 1099-G to be used when they file their personal income tax. 

Applying for Washington Paid Leave

When an employee experiences a qualifying event, they must apply for Washington Paid Leave directly through the state.

If leave is foreseeable, the employee must provide at least 30 days' notice in advance. The employee must give you notice as soon as they are able if leave is unforeseeable.

Emails and text messages do count as written notice.

Once an employee is approved, the state will notify the employer. 

Washington Paid Leave Employer Requirements

Aside from understanding how Washington Paid Leave works, employers need to adhere to certain requirements as well as handle certain responsibilities.

Job Protection Under Washington Paid Leave

One of the most important requirements for employers is that leave is job-protected for any employee who has worked for 12 months or longer and has worked 1,250 hours in the year before the first day they take Paid Leave.

However, this rule only applies to businesses with 50 or more employees.

Employee Notices Regarding Washington Paid Leave

Employers are also required to inform their employees about their rights under the Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave program. Additionally, if an employee requests time off that would otherwise by covered under Washington Paid Leave, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the employee is aware of this option.

This can be done by posting a notice in a conspicuous and easily accessible place customarily used to post other notices.

It is recommended that employers also share a paystub insert with employees to explain the withholding. Both documents are available in multiple languages on the Washington Paid Family Leave website.

Collecting Washington Paid Leave Premiums

The most important responsibility of employers is collecting, paying, and reporting premiums for Washington Paid Leave.

Typically, premiums are collected during payroll, and so in order to ensure proper compliance with Washington Payroll Laws, employers should ensure they understand premium collections thoroughly and have a payroll solution that can handle the deductions. 

The Washington Paid Leave 2023 premium rate is 0.8 percent of each employee’s gross wages, not including tips, up to the 2023 Social Security cap ($160,200). This is split between the employee and the employer. 

The employer covers 27.24% of the contribution, while employee withholding covers the rest. Important to note is that employers with less than 50 employees do not need to pay the employer portion of the premium. However, employers may choose to still do so as an employee benefit. 

Once premiums are collected, they are submitted along with quarterly reports to the Washington State Employment Security Department (WA ESD).

Important to note is that as of July 1st, 2023 employers must now collect and submit premiums from employees for Washington Cares too.

Quarterly reports should include:

  • Basic details about your business and employees 
    • Beginning Oct. 1, 2023, you’ll also include the employee’s date of birth
  • Each employee’s total hours worked, including paid time off
  • Each employee’s total wages, excluding tips

Washington businesses that are having issues with employer contributions and employee withholding may want to consider a Washington Payroll Service for help. 

Get Help with Washington Paid Leave

As part of our software and service, PayNW tracks and reports relevant employees’ hours and wages to Washington State, and files and remits quarterly withholdings required under the new law on your behalf.

You’ll enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that your organization is in compliance with current regulations, and you’ll have clear visibility into the tax filings and withholdings throughout your organization.

Get in touch with us to learn more about how PayNW keeps companies with complex payrolls worry-free and tax-compliant.

Watch our payroll demo video below to learn more about how our software can help manage your premium collections and payroll deductions.

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