Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave

The state of Washington has passed legislation that allows most employees to receive paid leave to take care of themselves, a sick family member or a new child. Passed in 2017, Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (WA PFML) takes effect January 1, 2020. The new program is in addition to the state’s Paid Sick Leave program, which began in 2018. Here are the WA PFML basics you should understand.

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Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave Basics

What is Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave?

PFML pays a part of an employee's income while they're out of work. It covers bonding with a new child, caring for a family member with a serious health condition, recovering from an employee’s own illness, and specific events related to a family member's active-duty military status.

All employers except for the federal government, federally recognized tribes and self-employed people are required to participate in one of two types of plans:

  • A state-run plan, in which employers are required to report employee wages, hours worked and other information for all employees, collect and remit premiums, and inform employees about the program.
  • A voluntary plan, run by the employer. Voluntary plans must be approved by the state. See the link below to submit your plan for approval

PFML provides the following annual maximum amount of leave:

  • Family Leave: 12 weeks
  • Medical Leave: 12 weeks
    (14 weeks for a pregnancy that results in incapacity)
  • Combined (Family + Medical): 16 weeks (18 weeks for a pregnancy that results in incapacity)

Who is eligible for PFML?

Employees who worked in the state of Washington for at least 820 hours during the qualifying period are eligible for benefits through the Washington PFML program. (The qualifying period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters starting from when you make your claim for benefits.1)

If the employee's company offers benefits through an approved private or 'voluntary' plan, the employer can also require that the employee has worked for them for at least 340 hours of the last 12 months before receiving benefits from their voluntary plan. Until the employee becomes eligible for the company's voluntary plan, the employee can collect benefits under the state plan.

Federally recognized tribes and self-employed people may opt in to the program.

1. https://paidleave.wa.gov/workers 7/10/19

Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave

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How is PFML different from disability coverage or FMLA?

Disability plans only pay during the employee's own disability. PFML pays benefits to employees while they take time off from work to bond with a new child, recover from a serious illness or injury, care for a seriously ill family member, or for specific events related to a family member's active-duty military status. PFML also provides job protection and health insurance continuation under certain circumstances.

FMLA is an unpaid, job and benefit-protected leave of absence with specific eligibility requirements and covered reasons for leave. Employers must have at least 50 employees to be subject to the FMLA.

When does PFML take effect?

Premiums started being assessed on January 1, 2019. Employees will be able to apply for benefits starting January 1, 2020.

How much will PFML cost?

The premium for PFML is 0.4% of an employee’s gross wages, shared between the employee and employer. An employee earning $50,000 per year will pay about $2.44 per week. Premium collection began January 1, 2019.

Helpful links:

Washington PFML homepage  Employer reporting page  Applying for a Voluntary Plan

Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave: Claim & Benefit Information

When can employees file claims?

Employees can file claims for PFML benefits beginning January 01, 2020, as long as they have satisfied the 820 hour work requirement.

What events are covered by PFML?

Employees may use PFML:

  • To care for a family member with a serious health condition (child any age, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling)*
  • To care for an employee’s own serious health condition*
  • To bond with a new child due to birth, adoption or foster-care placement within the first year of the birth/placement
  • For qualifying military events related to a family member on active military duty*

* 1-week waiting period applies per claim year

How much will PFML pay?

Employees are entitled to 12-16 weeks of partial wage replacement with a weekly minimum of $100 and a weekly maximum of $1,000, adjusted annually. The exact benefit is determined by the employee's average weekly wage during the qualifying period, the state's average weekly wage, and other factors.

For example: An employee earning $400 a week may receive a weekly benefit of about $360 while on leave. An employee earning $700 a week may receive a weekly benefit of about $601, and an employee earning $900 a week may receive a weekly benefit of about $701.

Is the PFML benefit subject to taxes?

Washington state does not collect income taxes. The legislation leaves it up to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to determine whether PFML benefits are subject to federal income tax. If that happens, the department administering the program must notify employees about withholding and other procedures.

Employer and Employee Information

Employees

Do I have to wait to take PFML?

Except in the case of bonding with a new child, there is a one-week waiting period before an employee can receive PFML benefits.

Am I eligible?

Almost every Washington employer must participate in this program, and almost every Washington employee will be eligible to receive benefits. This includes businesses of all sizes and non-profits, charities and faith organizations.2

Exceptions are federal employees, federally recognized tribes (they may opt-in), self-employed individuals (they may opt-in), and some employees subject to collective bargaining agreements.

  • Employees working in the state of Washington for at least 820 hours during the qualifying period are eligible for benefits through the Washington PFML program. (The qualifying period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters starting from when you make your claim for benefits.1)
  • If the employee’s company offers benefits through an approved private or 'voluntary' plan, the employer can require that the employee has worked for them for at least 340 hours of the last 12 months before receiving benefits from their voluntary plan. Until the employee becomes eligible for the company’s voluntary plan, the employee can collect benefits under the state plan.

Federally recognized tribes and self-employed people may opt in to the program.

1. https://paidleave.wa.gov/workers 7/10/19
2. pg 6, Washington Paid Family & Medical Leave EMPLOYER TOOLKIT V5.1 – July 1, 2019 from https://paidleave.wa.gov/

How does PFML coordinate with FMLA and other leave/benefits?

PFML is in addition to any leave for sickness or temporary disability because of pregnancy or childbirth. PFML leave must be taken concurrently with FMLA leave.

Employers

What are my employee communication responsibilities?

Employers must display a poster at the worksite describing the program, which will be supplied by the Washington state Employment Security Department (the agency administering the program).

Do I need to continue health insurance for employees on PFML?

Under both state and voluntary plans, employers must maintain health benefits only if they must already be maintained under FMLA.

Is PFML leave job protected?

The law provides job protection for employees who take leave, provided they meet these criteria:

  Minimum tenure with employer Minimum number of hours worked in 12 months just before leave
State plan 12 months  1,250
Voluntary   plans 9 months  965

Under the state plan, job protection provisions only apply to employers with 50+ employees in the state.