Paid Family and Medical Leave - Small Businesses

Washington workers will be able to use Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits starting in 2020. These benefits will generally allow up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year to care for yourself or your family.

Small employers must:

  • Collect and remit premiums.
  • Report employee wage and hours on a quarterly basis.
  • Provide required notice to employees, beginning at the end of 2019.

What is different for small businesses?

Employer requirements are broadly the same for small businesses. The primary difference is employers with fewer than 50 employees are not assessed the employer portion of the total premium. For more information about premium collection, please see our Premium Page.

How do small businesses calculate premiums?

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not responsible for paying the employer portion of the total premium. This does not mean employees of small businesses pay the entire 0.4 percent premium. Instead, employees contribute 63.33 percent of the 0.4 percent total premium. The remaining 36.67 percent employer portion is simply not assessed or collected. For more information about premium collection, please see our Premium Page.

How are employees counted for Paid Family and Medical Leave?

Employee count is based on quarterly reporting. Employers will report employee wages and hours each quarter and once per year the department will average the number of employees on these reports. This average will be the size of the employer for the next calendar year. This will be repeated each calendar year on Sept. 30.

Quarterly reports will include part-time, full-time, temporary employees and more, meaning the employee count will be strictly a head count.

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 July 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.

How do small businesses manage employees on leave?

Employees of a small business are eligible for the same benefit as everyone else. Employees will file for benefits directly to the department. The department is responsible for verifying the qualifying medical event, verifying eligibility for leave and issuing the benefit payment directly to the worker.

Employers may be required to hold the job of an employee on leave if all the following are true:

  • The employer has 50 or more employees working each day during each of the 20 or more weeks in the last year.
  • The employee has worked for the employer for a year or more.
  • The employee has worked for the employer for at least 1,250 hours in the year before the date of leave.

Job protection may have additional requirements after rulemaking is complete in the summer of 2019. There may also be additional laws outside of Paid Family and Medical Leave that apply to holding a position. Please contact our Customer Care Team if you have questions regarding job protection in Paid Family and Medical Leave.

Do employees of small businesses get the same benefit as everyone else?

Yes, all workers in Washington may be eligible for the same benefit. To qualify, a worker must work 820 hours in the qualifying period and must experience a qualifying event for leave. To learn more about benefits, please see our Workers Page.

Can a small business use an accountant or other third party to manage Paid Family and Medical Leave?

All employers, large and small, can partner with a third party. Employer agents, like an accountant or payroll company, can manage the employer responsibilities of Paid Family and Medical Leave. To learn more about this process, please see our Employer Agents Page.

What kind of financial assistance is available for small businesses?

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. 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.

How can small businesses get support for implementing paid family and medical leave?

Small businesses can get answers to their questions by calling or emailing our Customer Care Team. Our Customer Care Team is composed of specialists who know Paid Family and Medical Leave better than anyone. Use our Contact Page to connect directly with this team.

Can a small business opt-out of Paid Family and Medical Leave?

Employers cannot opt-out of Paid Family and Medical Leave. Voluntary Plans are available for employers who wish to operate their own paid family and medical leave program. Employers must submit these plans for approval and the employer must participate in the state plan until a Voluntary Plan is approved. Voluntary plan employers still have employer requirements.

There is no opt-out for an individual employee. Employees are covered either by the state plan or an approved voluntary plan.