Data & Resources


Washington Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML) Law

Contact: Logan Bahr, Brandon Anderson

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On January 1, 2019, nearly all employers in the State of Washington, including cities and towns, are required to collect premiums and track data on employees in accordance with the new Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) law. Shortly after, beginning in 2020, benefits will become available to employees, making Washington the fifth state in the nation to offer paid family and medical leave benefits to workers.

PFML is funded through shared premiums paid by employers and workers in the form of paycheck withholdings and is administered through the Employment Security Department (ESD). The program allows qualified workers to take up to 12 weeks, as needed, to care and bond after a baby’s birth or the placement of a child, care for a family member experiencing an illness or medical event, care for a personal illness or medical event, and for certain military-connected events. Workers experiencing multiple events in a given year may be eligible to receive up to 16 weeks, or up to 18 weeks if the employee experiences a serious health condition with a pregnancy.

The first quarterly premium payments and employee data report is due to the ESD by April 30, 2019 and continues on a quarterly basis. The tools employers will use to make premiums payments and report employee information are still in development. More information will be posted on ESD’s PFML website when details about this process become available.

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Requirements for employers


General

  • Nearly all employers in the State of Washington, including cities and towns, have responsibilities under the PFML law.
  • Employers will be responsible to remit premiums, report employee wages, hours worked, and other information for all employees.
  • Small employers with fewer than 50 employees will be exempt from paying the employer share of premiums.
  • ESD will calculate employee counts on an annual basis each year based on reported average employee headcounts over the previous four quarters. Headcounts are not calculated by FTE positions.
  • Paid elected officials are considered employees under the PFML statute.

About premiums

  • The initial premium will be 0.4% of an individual’s gross wage and will be shared by the employer (37%) and the employee (63%).
  • Cities may elect to pay all or a portion of the employee's share of the premium for family leave or medical leave benefits, or both.
  • The premium may be adjusted annually after 2020 by ESD.
  • Premium payments will be paid quarterly and will be due to ESD by the last day of the month following the end of the calendar quarter for which premiums are being paid.
  • If an employer fails to deduct their employees’ share of the premium, the employer is considered to have elected to pay the portion of the employee share and may not deduct this amount from any future paycheck.

Employer-managed plans

  • Employers may manage their own voluntary plans but they must meet or exceed the state plan’s requirements and be preapproved by ESD.
  • If your city is considering a voluntary plan, please visit the Paid Family & Medical Leave page for more details.

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Implementation timelines


  • October 19, 2017 – PFML law took effect and agency rulemaking began
  • January 1, 2019 – Employers begin collecting premiums and tracking employee data
  • April 30, 2019 – First premium payments and employee data report due to ESD
  • July 30, 2019 – Second premium payments and employee data report due to ESD
  • October 31, 2019 – Third premium payments and employee data report due to ESD
  • January 1, 2020 – Paid Family & Medical Leave benefits available to eligible employees
  • December 31, 2020 – Adjustment of premium rates and withholding cap

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Quick facts


  • The premium for 2019 is 0.4% and is shared by the employer (37%) and the employee (63%).
  • An employer can elect to pay the employee's share of the premium.
  • Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer portion of the premium.
  • Premiums must be remitted quarterly during the month following each completed calendar quarter.
  • Premium withholdings are capped at the Social Security cap, $128,400 in 2018.
  • Employers may manage their own voluntary plans but must meet or exceed the state plan’s requirements and be preapproved by ESD.
  • In order to be eligible for benefits, employees must work 820 hours in the last five quarters to qualify – once they qualify, they are vested and there is no waiting period to use the benefit even if they change employers.
  • Employees will receive a percentage of their weekly wage, with the lowest paid employees receiving 90 percent of their average weekly wage. Those earning more will receive a lower percentage with a maximum benefit of $1,000 per week.
  • Cities are preempted from adopting additional requirements for family and medical leave for employers in their jurisdictions.

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More resources


The Employment Security Department has developed resources to assist businesses and governments seeking to comply with the law. If the below links don’t answer your question, you can reach out to the agency by emailing paidleave@esd.wa.gov or calling the PFML Customer Care Team at 1-888-717-2273 between 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday.

Chapter 50A.04 RCWFamily & Medical Leave Program

ESD PFML homepageWashington’s Paid Family & Medical Leave

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Contacts


Brandon Anderson
AWC Government Relations Analyst

Logan Bahr
AWC Government Relations Advocate

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