In 2017, the Washington State legislature authorized a statewide insurance plan to provide paid family and medical leave to all Washington employees. Under the Paid Family and Medical Leave law, nearly all Washington employers must collect and remit premiums, comply with new reporting requirements, and comply with new poster and notice requirements. These requirements will be phased in over the next year.
Starting January 1, 2019, Washington employers will be required to collect and remit premiums to the state on a quarterly basis. Washington employers should ensure they are prepared to implement this new payroll deduction in January. The required premiums are split between family leave and medical leave. Employees fund the family leave premium entirely, while the cost of the medical leave premium is split between the employee and the employer.
Starting April 1, 2019, Washington employers must report to Washington's Employment Security Department all wages, hours worked, and other information regarding their Washington employees. Employee eligibility for leave under the plan is based, among other things, on hours worked by the employee during the qualifying period. The hours may be accrued at more than one employer, making the benefits both cumulative and portable for employees. For example, an employee who works two jobs at 20 hours per week at each job will earn 40 hours per week towards the 820 hours the employee needs to accumulate in total to be eligible for paid leave. Similarly, an employee who works full-time at one employer and then leaves to work full-time at another employer qualifies for benefits by accumulating 820 hours between the two. The employee must accumulate the 820 hours during the first four quarters of the last five quarters before the leave. Employers may be subject to penalties for failure to report this information.
Starting January 1, 2020, employee leave benefits will become available. Under the plan, eligible employees will be entitled to take up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for qualifying reasons; up to 14 weeks of paid medical leave for the employee's own serious health condition; and up to 18 weeks of paid combined family and medical leave.
While the program applies to nearly all Washington employers, there are limited exceptions. For instance, small employers do not have to pay the employer portion of the medical leave premium and may qualify for small business assistance. Large employers may be able to opt out of the state plan by operating their own voluntary plan. Employer-run voluntary plans must meet or exceed the law's requirements and be pre-approved by Washington's Employment Security Department.
This update is prepared for the general information of our clients and friends. It should not be regarded as legal advice. If you would like further information on Washington's Paid Family and Medical Leave law or need help with employee leave policies, please contact an attorney in our Labor & Employment Practice Group.