Man in military uniform playing with his young family  

Although there are common elements to the many PFML regulations, there are also differences in the way each state designs its plan and coordinates it with other leave types. Here’s what you need to know about PFML in Washington


Paid Family and Medical Leave

What is Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML)?

Paid Family and Medical Leave is a statewide insurance program that allows eligible employees paid leave for the following reasons:

  • Treating their own serious health condition
  • Bonding with a new child (within 12 months of birth, placement of child via foster care or adoption)
  • Caring for a seriously ill, covered family member
  • Attending to family matters related to a covered family member’s call to active duty

Covered family members include spouses, state-registered domestic partners, children, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren and siblings.

Parent-child relationships include biological, adoptive, foster, de facto and loco parentis.

When did it start?

Benefits began January 1, 2020, though premium contributions began on January 1, 2019.

Which employers are subject to the law?

All employers in the state of Washington, including out-of-state employers with employees working in Washington, are required to participate with a few exceptions: federal employees, federally recognized tribes, self-employed individuals, and people who work temporarily in Washington.

Who is eligible?

Employees whose work is fully performed in Washington or mostly performed in the state with some work done temporarily out-of-state are also eligible. When employees aren’t located in any particular state, they are still is required to participate when:

  • Their employer is based on Washington
  • Their employer doesn’t have a base of operations, but their services are meant for purchase in Washington
  • Their employer doesn’t have a base of operations, nor a place where services are directed, but the employee lives in Washington

To be eligible under the state plan, an employee must work 820 hours during the “qualifying period” and employee can earn these total hours under more than one employer. The qualifying period is the first four of the last five full quarters in the calendar. For employee eligibility requirements under a voluntary plan please see the question, "What is the voluntary plan?"

How is this program funded?

The Washington PFML program will be funded by premiums paid by both employees and employers. The total premium rate payable to the state is 0.4% of an employee’s wages paid each quarter. This equation is broken down in the following manner:

  • Medical Leave: Two-thirds of the 0.4% premium rate (approximately 0.27%) is attributed to the medical leave portion of the program. Employees are expected to contribute 45% with employers contributing the remaining 55% of this amount.
  • Family Leave: One-third of the 0.4% premium rate (approximately 0.13%) is attributed to the family leave portion of the program and is intended to be 100% employee-paid.

The current rate will be effective through 12/31/2021 and may be adjusted annually by Washington's Employment Security Department.

What is the voluntary program option?

Instead of a state-run program, employers may elect to offer a private plan, referred to as a voluntary plan. The employer can have a voluntary plan for either family leave, medical leave, or both.

An employer’s voluntary plan must meet the following requirements:

  • Fully match or exceed the state plan’s benefits and may not include restrictions not allowed under the state plan.
  • Be approved by the state’s Employment Security Department (ESD) before implementation. $250 application fee must be remitted to the ESD.
  • Adhere to specific voluntary plan eligibility and reporting requirements.

To be eligible for benefits under a voluntary plan, an employee must:

  • Work 820 hours during the “qualifying period” and have at least 340 hours of employment with the employer, or
  • Have been covered by an approved voluntary plan with their previous employer.

Employees working for an employer with a voluntary plan who have not yet met the voluntary plan eligibility requirements are eligible for benefits under the state plan if all other requirements are met.

What are the benefits to the employee?

After meeting a 7-day waiting period (does not apply to bonding with a new child), employees are entitled to 12 weeks of either paid family leave or paid medical leave, and up to a maximum of 16 weeks of combined paid family and medical leave. An additional two weeks can be added for an employee’s pregnancy that results in incapacity, within a 52-week period. Benefit amount varies based on the following criteria:

  • Employees with an average weekly wage less than or equal to 50% of the state average weekly wage will receive a 90% benefit.
  • Employees earning more than 50% of the state average weekly wage will receive the underlying 90% benefit plus an additional 50% of their average weekly wage that exceeds 50% of the state average weekly wage.
  • The maximum weekly benefit will be $1,206 through December 31, 2021 and may increase in future calendar years.
Does Washington PFML provide intermittent leave?

Yes. Employees may take leave on a continuous or intermittent basis. Intermittent time must be taken in no less than 8-hour increments.

Does Washington PFML provide job protection?

Yes. Employees covered by the state program are entitled to job protection while on leave when they:

  • Work for an employer with 50 or more employees
  • Have worked for that employer for at least 12 months
  • Have worked at least 1250 hours for that employer in the past 12 months

Employees covered by a voluntary plan are entitled to job protection while on leave when they have worked for the employer for at least nine months and have worked for the employer for at least 965-hours during the 12-month period prior to the start of leave.

Other Washington state paid family and medical leave resources
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