In 2017, Washington state passed legislation establishing a Paid Family and Medical Leave insurance program. Parts of that law take effect in 2019, and employers in Washington need to prepare.
The program will allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off to welcome a new child to their families, deal with a serious illness or take care of an ill or ailing family member. In some circumstances, workers may be able to take up to 18 weeks of paid time off. The program will be administered by the Employment Security Department (ESD) and is funded by premiums paid by employees and employers. Under the program, employees can receive up to 90 percent of their weekly wage, with a minimum of $100 each week and a maximum of $1,000 each week.
Beginning January 1, 2019, employers must be prepared to remit premiums and submit quarterly reports for the Paid Family and Medical Leave program, with the first quarterly premium remittance and reports due by April 30, 2019. Employees can begin taking benefits on January 1, 2020.
The plan requires employers to report employee wages, hours worked and additional information quarterly. For 2019, the total premiums will be 0.4 percent of gross wages paid, subject to a cap that will be adjusted annually. Generally, the worker will be responsible for 63 percent of the total premiums due and the employer will be responsible for 37 percent of the premiums due. Small employers with fewer than 50 employees do not have to pay the employer portion of the premium, but they are required to collect and report the employee portion and comply with reporting requirements.
To qualify for leave, an employee must have worked for 820 hours in the qualifying period. These hours can be earned at more than one employer. By reporting hours to the ESD, employers ensure an accurate record of hours worked by each employee. The qualifying period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters starting from the day the employee intends to take leave.
The application process for employees is being created in 2019. However, employees must inform their employer if they intend to take leave. If the event is foreseeable, the employee must notify their employer 30 days in advance. If the event is unforeseeable, the employee is required to give as much notice as possible. In some cases, like a traumatic auto accident, for example, employees may not be able to give notice.
As the application process for employees is finalized in 2019, employers should build out internal policies that meet state requirements. Employers will be required to post a notice developed by the ESD about this law in their workplace as well. Employers can learn more and obtain resources from the ESD here.
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