Starting Jan. 1, 2019, employers should be:
- Collecting Paid Family and Medical Leave premiums to be remitted in April 2019.
- Budgeting for the employer share of the premium.
- Preparing for quarterly reporting, including tracking hours and wages of all employees, including seasonal, temporary and part-time workers.
If you did not start collecting premiums from employees on Jan. 1, there is no penalty and you can begin withholding at any time provided you give your employees notice one pay period in advance. However, you cannot retroactively withhold premiums from employees, and you will be responsible for paying any missed premiums on their behalf. You should not remit your premiums to the Employment Security Department until quarterly reports are due this spring. If you remit now, we will issue a refund and you will need to remit again when you report.
Federal employers and employees, federally recognized tribes and self-employed individuals are exempt from the program, but tribes and people who are self-employed may opt in. If you have employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement they may have delayed participation in the program.
This program was authorized by the Legislature in 2017, and its implementation is ongoing. The information below will help you get started, but please understand that rulemaking is ongoing, and we will update this page with more details as they become available. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
To qualify for Paid Family and Medical Leave, you must work 820 hours or more in the qualifying period. The qualifying period is either:
- The first four of the last five completed calendar quarters; or
- The last four completed calendar quarters
All Washington employers, including out-of-state employers with Washington employees, are required to participate with few exceptions.
- Self employed individuals (May opt-in)
- Federal Employees
- Federally Recognized Tribes (May opt-in)
- People who work temporarily in Washington (Example: Utility worker helping after a storm)
Temporary waivers for out-of-state employees
Employers may apply for a conditional waiver for their workers when they meet these three conditions:
- Physically based outside of the state;
- Employed in the state on a limited or temporary work schedule; and
- Not expected to be employed in the state for eight hundred twenty hours or more in a qualifying period.
In-state vs. out-of-state employees
An employee is included in Paid Family and Medical Leave when:
- All of the employee’s work is performed in Washington; or
- Most of the employee’s work or services are done in Washington, but some of the work is done temporarily out-of-state.
When work is not located in any state, the worker must participate when:
- The base of operations is in Washington; or
- If there is no base of operations, but the place where services are directed is in Washington; or
- There is no base of operations, no place where services are directed, but the worker lives in Washington.
Paid Family and Medical Leave cannot be taken without a qualifying event. Leave events can be either Family or Medical.
- Care and bond after a baby’s birth or the placement of a child younger than 18
- Care for a family member experiencing an illness or medical event
- Certain military-connected events
- Care for yourself in relation to an illness or medical event
When qualified, Washington workers will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave. An additional 2 weeks of leave is available when the leave is a result of pregnancy complications. Workers are eligible for up to 16 weeks of leave when family and medical leave are used in combination. For example, an expecting mother could use 8 weeks of medical leave for bed rest. The mother could then use an additional 8 weeks of family leave after giving birth to care and bond with the new child.
The weekly benefit for Paid Family and Medical Leave is the dollar amount a covered employee will receive from ESD while claiming these benefits. The dollar amount is capped at $1,000 with a minimum of $100 and is a calculated percentage of the employee's gross wages.back to top
Washington's Paid Family and Medical Leave Program is organized as an insurance program with the cost of premiums split between employers and employees. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2019, employers will either collect Paid Family and Medical Leave premiums from employee paychecks or choose to cover their employee's share of the premium on their behalf. The initial premium will be .4% and can be adjusted annually after 2020 by ESD, according to rules in statute.
Read more on calculating and paying premiums.back to top
Nearly all employers in Washington state have responsibilities under the Paid Family and Medical Leave program, including small businesses, state and local government agencies and non-profits, faith organizations and other typically tax-exempt associations. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer portion of premiums, but must remit employee premiums and report employee wages, hours and more to ESD. Federal employees, federally recognized tribes and self-employed people are exempt from this program, but federally recognized tribes and self-employed workers may opt in.
Voluntary plans may be an option for an employer who wants to operate their own paid family and/or medical leave programs. Employers must apply and be approved to operate a voluntary plan. For the first three years of a voluntary plan’s existence, reapproval is required every year. After three years, reapproval is required only if the employer makes changes to the plan. More information is available on our voluntary plan page.back to top
Paid Family and Medical Leave is a statewide insurance program.
With very few exceptions, employers will have a responsibility to:
- Report employee wages, hours worked, and other information for all employees.
- Collect and remit premiums.
- A mandatory poster to notify employees of the program will be available before Jan. 1, 2020. If you would like something to share with your employees prior to that, download our optional paystub insert to distribute or post.
Collective bargaining agreements
Do you have employees covered under a collective bargaining agreement? 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 do not withhold premiums from these employees or pay the employer share of their premium until the CBA is reopened, renegotiated, or expires.
What if only specific parts of a CBA have been renegotiated?
For the purposes of Paid Family and Medical Leave, only collective bargaining agreements that have been renegotiated in their entirety meet the definition of reopened, renegotiated or expired. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) covering a narrow or specific section of a CBA does not constitute a reopening or renegotiation for the purposes of Paid Family and Medical Leave.
For example, MOUs to accommodate the new paid sick leave law are not considered a reopening or renegotiation. This includes MOUs to expand the collectively bargained definition of family, accrual rates and reasons for usage under the new paid sick leave law. Negotiations of future contracts also do not constitute a reopening or renegotiation.
The circumstances around specific agreements may require further determination. To ask specific questions about circumstances not relayed here, call our Customer Care Team at 833-717-2273.back to top
Paid Family and Medical Leave is an insurance program funded through premiums paid by employers and workers. All employers may either withhold employees' premiums from their paychecks or pay some or all of the premium on their employees’ behalf. The premium for 2019 is 0.4% of an employee's gross wages.
- Detailed information on calculating and remitting premiums, defining gross wages, and exemptions is posted on the premiums page.
- Estimate your premiums using our premium calculator.
Starting in 2019, employers will be required to report employee information to ESD quarterly. Reporting periods follow calendar quarters and are aligned with reporting periods for Unemployment Insurance (UI). However, reporting for Paid Family and Medical Leave is separate from UI and will be completed through a different online tool starting in spring 2019.
Find more information on our reporting page.back to top
Paid Family and Medical Leave is a statewide program. FMLA is a federal program. In short, this does not replace FMLA.
Businesses with fewer than 50 employees do not have requirements under FMLA, but they must collect and remit employee premiums and complete required reporting for Paid Family and Medical Leave.
When an employee experiences a qualifying event, and the event would qualify for both Paid Family and Medical Leave and FMLA, the available leave in both programs decreases together as an employee takes leave.
Many questions about how Paid Family and Medical Leave will interact with FMLA will be answered in the third phase of Rulemaking. We encourage the public to participate in this process through our Rulemaking Page.back to top
Paid Family and Medical Leave is structured as an insurance program. Your employees pay into the program through payroll withholding, which is remitted by the employer. They qualify by working 820 hours in the qualifying period, verified by employer reporting.
Once an employee has qualified by working 820 hours, they must then experience a qualifying event. This event could be related to either family or medical leave. For example, an employee who is caring for their newborn would use family leave. An employee caring for themselves after a car accident would use medical leave.
After qualifying, the employee will file a claim with the Employment Security Department. This claim could be filed after the first missed day of work. In the car accident example, an employee could file their claim once they are physically able to. If the reason for leave is foreseeable, the employee must give their employer 30 days’ notice of their intention to take leave.
The employer will be notified of the employee’s claim for leave. A process for the employer to dispute the employees claim will be developed in Phase 3 of Rulemaking. When the claim is approved, the employee receives their benefit payment within 14 days of the application. Payments are made biweekly after the first payment.
If an employer has 50 or more employees, the employee is eligible for job protection if they have worked for that employer for 12 months or longer and have worked 1250 hours in the year to date before the first day of leave.back to top
Voluntary plans are employer-run paid family and/or medical leave insurance programs. Employers can choose to use a voluntary plan for family leave, medical leave or both. Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, all Washington employers must offer paid family and medical leave whether it's through a voluntary plan or the state plan. Employers must apply and be approved to operate a voluntary plan. For more information, visit our voluntary plan page.
The benefits available to employees covered by a voluntary plan must meet or exceed the state plan's benefits. Benefits must also be extended to all employees of the applying business.
Employers must apply and be approved to operate a voluntary plan.
For the first three years of a voluntary plan’s existence, reapproval is required every year. After three years, reapproval is required only if the employer makes changes to the plan. All voluntary plan applications will be subject to a $250 fee, except for mandated renewals.
If a voluntary plan is denied, employees are covered under the state plan.
Best practices for voluntary plan submission
- Read the Voluntary Plan Guide to prepare.
- Identify the gaps in existing policy from the Paid Family and Medical Leave program requirements.
- Stipulate the leave entitlement specific to Paid Family and Medical Leave.
- Provide sufficient details for determination review.
- Ensure definitions match those required under the law (for example: definition of family).
We do not begin reviewing a voluntary plan application until we receive your payment. We recommend you allow thirty days from the date we receive your payment to the date we issue an application decision.back to top
Businesses of all sizes are part of this program.
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from paying the employer portion of the premium.
- Small businesses must still withhold their employee's portion, or cover it on their behalf.
- Businesses of all size must fulfill all reporting requirements.
- Employees at small businesses do not pay more than 63.333% of the total 0.4% and they are still fully covered by the program.
Here is how the calculation works:
Employee gross wage x .004 = Total premium
Total premium x .6333 = Maximum premium amount assessed of small businesses. This amount can be withheld from the employee's paycheck, or covered by the employer on their behalf.
You can estimate your premiums using our premium calculator. Please note: Premiums should be withheld from each paycheck. Employers cannot collect missed premiums in later pay periods.
How is business size calculated?
ESD will calculate your business’s size on an annual basis Sept. 30 of each year. It is based on your average employee headcount over the previous four quarters as reflected in the reports you submit to ESD. It is not calculated by FTE positions.
Business size calculation for 2019 only:
- ESD will determine the size of your business based on your first quarter report (Jan – March), and this is the number ESD will use for 2019.
- On Sept. 30, 2019, ESD will average the number of employees reported over the previous quarters to determine business size for calendar year 2020.
- You won’t receive ESD’s calculation of your business’s size until we receive your first quarterly report in April 2019. However, tracking the headcount of your employees for the first quarter of 2019 will give you the best indication of whether you will need to pay the employer portion of the premium in April.
Even if you are exempt from FMLA or Unemployment Insurance (UI) requirements, you are more than likely required to participate in this program. The only significant exemptions for Paid Family and Medical Leave are federal employers and employees, federally recognized tribes and sole-proprietors.back to top
Any self-employed person may opt-in to the state plan. This includes sole proprietors, independent contractors, partners, and joint ventures. When electing to use the state plan, self-employed persons must participate for an initial period of three years, and one year thereafter.
Self-employed people who choose to participate must cover the employee share of the premium and are required to work 820 hours in the qualifying period to be eligible for benefits.
For more information regarding self-employed persons using the state plan, see the RCW here: Elective Coverage – Self Employed.back to top
Grants are available for small businesses to help cover the costs of hiring temporary employees when a member of your team uses Paid Family and Medical Leave. To be eligible for these grants, your business must average 150 or fewer employees. Businesses that average fewer than 50 employees must pay the employer portion of premiums to be eligible.
Grants of up to $3,000 are available and can be issued 10 times per year to a single employer. A business must apply for these grants and more information about the application process will be available in the future.
A grant of $1,000 is available to businesses who experience significant wage-related costs due to an employee’s leave when using Paid Family and Medical Leave.
You can learn more about Small Business Assistance in the RCW here.back to top
Federally recognized tribes and self-employed individuals, including independent contractors, sole proprietors, partners and joint ventures are not required to participate in Paid Family and Medical Leave but may opt in to the program to receive access to benefits.
I own an S-Corp. Am I required to participate in Paid Family and Medical Leave?
Maybe! An S-Corp is a federal tax designation and isn’t enough information for us to know if you’re required to participate. In Washington, S-Corps are either a corporation or an LLC.
If you receive compensation from your corporation in exchange for service provided to it, you are required to participate as an employee of that organization. Corporate officers are required to participate.
Limited Liability Companies (LLC's)
Members of an LLC are exempt from the program even if they are taking a wage from their LLC. Owners of a sole-proprietorship, partnership, or LLC members are not required to participate but can elect coverage.
If any of these organizations have employees, they have employer responsibilities. See our employer page for more details about these responsibilities.back to top