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.
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:
PFML provides the following annual maximum amount of leave:
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.
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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.
Premiums started being assessed on January 1, 2019. Employees will be able to apply for benefits starting January 1, 2020.
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.
Employees can file claims for PFML benefits beginning January 01, 2020, as long as they have satisfied the 820 hour work requirement.
Employees may use PFML:
* 1-week waiting period applies per claim year
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.
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.
Except in the case of bonding with a new child, there is a one-week waiting period before an employee can receive PFML benefits.
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.
Federally recognized tribes and self-employed people may opt in to the program.1. https://paidleave.wa.gov/workers 7/10/19
If an employee is receiving WA PFML for an FMLA qualifying reason and is eligible for FMLA, FMLA will run concurrently.
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).
Under both state and voluntary plans, employers must maintain health benefits only if they must already be maintained under FMLA.
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.