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Washington Enacts Paid Family and Medical Leave Law

Posted on July 12 2017 04:54 PM

Benefits Begin January 1, 2020

Washington has enacted a paid family and medical leave law. Highlights of the law are presented below.

Definitions of 'Family' and 'Medical' Leave and Maximum Duration
"Family leave" means any leave taken by an employee from work:

  • To participate in providing care, including physical or psychological care, for a family member of the employee made necessary by a serious health condition of the family member;
  • To bond with the employee's child during the first 12 months after the child's birth, or the first 12 months after the placement of a child under the age of 18 with the employee; or
  • Because of any qualifying exigency as permitted under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act for family members.

"Medical leave" means any leave taken by an employee from work made necessary by the employee's own serious health condition.

The maximum duration of paid family leave may not exceed 12 times the typical workweek hours during a period of 52 consecutive calendar weeks. The maximum duration of paid medical leave may not exceed 12 times the typical workweek hours during a period of 52 consecutive calendar weeks. Paid medical leave may also be extended an additional 2 times the typical workweek hours if the employee experiences a serious health condition with a pregnancy that results in incapacity.

Coverage, Eligibility, and Benefit Start Date
The law generally applies to employers of all sizes. Employees are eligible for family and medical leave benefits after working for at least 820 hours during the qualifying period.

Beginning January 1, 2020, family and medical leave are available and benefits are payable to a qualified employee. Following a waiting period consisting of the first 7 calendar days of leave, benefits are payable when family or medical leave is required. However, no waiting period is required for leave for the birth or placement of a child.

Benefit Amounts
The weekly benefit for family and medical leave will be determined as follows. If the employee's average weekly wage is:

  • 50% or less of the state average weekly wage, the employee's weekly benefit is 90% of the employee's average weekly wage; or
  • Greater than 50% of the state average weekly wage, the employee's weekly benefit is the sum of: 90% of the employee's average weekly wage up to 50% of the state average weekly wage; and 50% of the employee's average weekly wage that is greater than 50% of the state average weekly wage.

The maximum weekly benefit for state family and medical leave that occurs on or after January 1, 2020 is expected to be $1,000. By September 30, 2020 (and by each subsequent September 30th), the state is expected to adjust the maximum weekly benefit amount to 90% of the state average weekly wage. The adjusted maximum weekly benefit amount is expected to take effect on the following January 1st.

The minimum weekly benefit is not expected to be less than $100 per week, except that if the employee's average weekly wage at the time of family and medical leave is less than $100 per week, the weekly benefit will be the employee's full wage.

Notice, Posting, and Recordkeeping Requirements
Whenever an employee is absent from work to provide family leave, or take medical leave for more than 7 consecutive days, the employer must provide the employee with a written statement of the employee's rights under the law (in a form to be prescribed by the commissioner of the state Employment Security Department).

Each employer must also post and keep posted—in conspicuous places on the employer's premises where notices to employees and applicants are customarily posted—a notice (to be prepared or approved by the commissioner) setting forth excerpts from, or summaries of, the pertinent provisions of the law and information pertaining to the filing of a complaint.

Additionally, an employer must keep at the employer's place of business a record of employment, for a period of 6 years.

Additional Information
The family and medical leave law repeals several laws, including the Washington Family Leave Act and the Washington Family Leave Insurance Law. The law also contains additional information on employer and employee premiums, including waiver and how much employers may deduct from employee wages for premiums.

Beginning January 1, 2020, family and medical leave are available and benefits are payable to a qualified employee; however, the law contains various effective and applicability dates. Affected employers with questions about the law's impact on workplace policies and practices should contact a knowledgeable employment law attorney.

Click here to read the text of the law.

To review other laws specific to Washington, visit the State Laws section, click on Washington, and choose your topic of interest from the left-hand navigation menu.