Paid Family and Medical Leave

Paid time off when you need it most. It’s yours starting next year.

Paid Family and Medical Leave is a new benefit for employees in Washington. It’s here for you when a serious health condition prevents you from working or when you need time to care for a family member or a new child. It provides paid time off when you need it most, offering stability and peace of mind so you can focus on what matters.

Paid Family and Medical Leave will be available January 2020. Now is the time to learn more about your new benefit if:

  • You have a new child at home who was born, adopted or joined your family as a foster child any time in 2019;
  • You are expecting a birth, adoption or foster placement ;
  • You or a family member have a major medical procedure scheduled for early next year.

What you need to know

  • How do I know if I'm eligible for paid leave?

    Paid Family and Medical Leave is available to almost everyone working in Washington. You are eligible if:

    1. You’ve worked 820 hours (about 16 hours a week) in Washington during the qualifying period, which is about the last year.

    2. You’ve experienced a qualifying event. Qualifying events include a serious health condition that prevents you from working, a new baby or child joining your family, and a family member’s serious illness or medical event. Here are some examples:

    • You give birth to a baby, adopt a child or have a foster child placed with your family.
    • You are recovering from a major surgery, serious illness or injury.
    • You are receiving treatment for a chronic health condition like diabetes or epilepsy.
    • You are receiving inpatient treatment for substance abuse or for mental health.
    • You are taking care of a family member with a serious health condition.
    • Your family member is on active duty military service and you take time to be with them during R&R.

    3. You are not a federal employee, employed by an employer who has an approved exemption because paid family and medical leave benefits are provided through a voluntary plan, or covered by a collective bargaining agreement that hasn’t been opened or renegotiated since before October 19, 2017. If you’re self-employed or employed by a federally recognized tribe, you are not automatically eligible. Self-employed people and tribes need to opt in to receive paid leave.

    How much time can I take?

    Most eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave a year. If you give birth to a baby, you qualify for up to 16 weeks of paid leave. In some circumstances, you may qualify for up to 18 weeks.

    You don’t have to take your leave all at once. For example, you may take one day off a week to support a family member undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

    What benefit do I receive?

    While you’re out, you will receive payments from the state based on a percentage of your typical weekly earnings, up to $1,000 a week. Check back soon for a benefit calculator to estimate how much you will receive.

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  • How is this different from paid sick days?

    Paid Family and Medical Leave is for times when something major keeps you away from work for a longer period of time. Paid sick days are for short-term health conditions that keep you from working, typically for less than a week.

    With Paid Family and Medical Leave, unless you welcomed a new child into your family, there is a seven-day waiting period before you can begin receiving your benefit. During this time, you can use paid sick days if you choose to.

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  • I know I’ll have to take time off from work next year to care for myself or a family member. How do I prepare?

    If you know you will be applying for Paid Family and Medical Leave early in 2020, there is one thing you can do now to get ready: tell your employer.

    Telling your employer. If you know about your leave before it happens, you’ll need to give your employer written notice. Provide notice at least 30 days in advance. Emails, text messages, and handwritten notes all count as notice. You’ll need to include the date you gave notice to your employer on the application for paid leave that you submit to the state, so keep a record of the notice.

    When you apply for benefits, the state will send a notice to your employer that lists the type of leave you’re applying for (medical or family), the dates you expect to be on leave and the date you gave your employer notice of your plan to take leave.

    What kind of paperwork will I need to provide?

    To qualify for leave, you will need to provide the state with paperwork that proves you experienced an event that qualifies you to take paid leave.

          • For medical leave for yourself, or family leave member, you will need the patient’s healthcare provider to complete our Certification of Serious Health Condition form. You will upload this form during the application process.
          • For family leave related to military deployment, you’ll need to provide documentation like active duty orders.
          • If you’re taking leave to care for a new child, you may be asked to provide documents such as the child’s birth certificate or court documents to show placement.

    How are my hours and wages calculated?

    Nearly all employers in Washington began reporting their employees’ names, wages and hours worked in Washington in 2019. Employers submit these reports every three months (in January, April, July and October) to the state on your behalf.

    When you apply for benefits, the state reviews the hours your employer(s) reported for you to make sure you worked more than 820 hours during the last year. If you have more than one job, your hours are added together. During the application process, you'll be able to see what your employer reported for you and let us know if you think they made a mistake.

    Download the fact sheet to learn more.

    Who is considered a "family member"?

    • Spouse (including registered domestic partner)
    • Children (including step and foster)
    • Grandchildren
    • Siblings
    • Parents (including in-law and loco parentis)
    • Grandparents

    All definitions are listed in the law.

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More answers

  • Who qualifies for more than 12 weeks of leave?

    If you gave birth to a baby, you may qualify for up to 16 weeks of leave.

    You may also be eligible for up to 16 weeks if you have a personal medical event and family caregiving event happen in the same year–like recovering from a surgery and caring for an ill family member.

    In cases related to complications in pregnancy, you may be able to take up to 18 weeks.

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  • I had a baby in 2019. Can I still apply for benefits?

    You have 12 months from the date of a child’s birth, adoption or placement to take your paid leave. That means that if your child was born or placed in your family after January 2, 2019, you can still take leave in 2020, but you may not qualify for the full 12 to 16 weeks of paid leave.

    For example, if your child was born February 1, 2019, you qualify for paid leave from January 1 until February 1, 2020. But if your child joined your family on May 25, 2019, you can apply for benefits and take your full leave any time before May 25, 2020.

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  • I am self-employed or employed by a federally recognized tribe. How do I get paid leave?

    If you’re self-employed, you can opt-in to Paid Family and Medical Leave. If you are employed by a federally recognized tribe, your tribe can opt-in.

    To opt in, you agree to pay a small premium (about 0.25% of your income) for three years. After that, you can participate on an annual basis. You also need to report your wages every quarter.

    You can qualify for paid leave in 2020 as long as you commit to contributing a premium for three years. Learn more about opting in.

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  • How much does Paid Family and Medical Leave cost?

    Paid Family and Medical Leave is funded through small contributions that come from both employees and many employers. The amount you pay varies by how much you earn. For example, an employee who makes $50,000 a year pays about $2.44 each week through payroll deductions.

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