Data & Resources


Washington Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML) Law

Contact: Candice Bock

On January 1, 2019, nearly all employers in the State of Washington, including cities and towns, began collecting premiums and tracking data on employees in accordance with the new Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) law. Benefits were available to employees on January 1, 2020, making Washington the fifth state in the nation to offer paid family and medical leave benefits to workers. In the 2020 session, the Legislature passed HB 2614 making additional administrative changes to the program.

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). Premiums are paid quarterly to 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.

Changes to program in 2020

HB 2614 makes a number of technical changes to the program’s administration:

  • Expands the definition of child to include caring for a child’s spouse to qualify for leave.
  • Paid time off is defined to include vacation leave, personal leave, medical leave, sick leave, compensatory leave, or any other paid leave offered by an employer under the employer's established policy.
  • Supplemental benefit payments is defined to mean payments made by an employer to an employee as salary continuation or as paid time off. Payments must be in addition to any paid family or medical leave benefits the employee is receiving.
  • Clarifies that paid time off can be used during any portion of the seven-day waiting period.
  • The seven-day waiting period for payment of benefits is waived for military exigency leave.

COVID-19 resources

checkmark-blue-icon-75 

Requirements for employers


General

  • Nearly all employers in the State of Washington, including cities and towns, have responsibilities under the PFML law.
  • Employers must remit premiums, report employee wages, hours worked, and other information for all employees.
  • Small employers with fewer than 50 employees are 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.
  • When employers become aware that an employee is taking time off for more than seven consecutive days to care for a family member or their own serious health condition, they must notify employees they may qualify for PFML within five business days.

About premiums

  • The current premium is 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.
  • Premiums are paid quarterly and 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.

survey-icon-75 

Quick facts


  • The premium 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 experience a qualifying event or have family member that experiences a qualifying event; and
  • Must work 820 hours in the last five quarters to qualify.
  • Once an employee qualifies, they are vested, and there is no waiting period to use the benefit even if they change employers.
  • Union members who have collective bargaining agreements (CBA) in place that have not been reopened or renegotiated since October 19, 2017, are not eligible. They will be eligible when the CBA expires or if it is reopened.
  • 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.

resources-icon-75 

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

MRSC resourcesLeave-Laws-and-Policies

Copyright © 2018-2020 Association of Washington Cities