How does Paid Family & Medical Leave work for employers?

  • Who's eligible for benefits?

    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.
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  • What do the benefits cover?

    Paid Family and Medical Leave cannot be taken without a qualifying event. Leave events can be either Family or Medical.

    Family Leave

    • 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

    Medical Leave

    • 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.

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  • How is the program funded?

    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.

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  • Is participation in the program mandatory?

    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.

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