Advisory For Companies With Washington Employees Regarding Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave

Legal Alert

Washington employers—and all employers with Washington employees—should be aware of Washington’s newly enacted Paid Family and Medical Leave law. Beginning January 1, 2019, employers in Washington State and out-of-state companies with Washington employees are required to begin collecting premium payments to help fund the program.

Under the law, eligible employees are able to take up to 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave. In the case of pregnancy, an additional two weeks will be provided. Employees can take a total of 16 weeks when using family and medical leave in combination. Family leave includes time to care and bond after the birth of a baby or placement of a child under the age of 18, time to care for one’s family member undergoing an illness or medical event, and eligible military-related events. Medical leave constitutes time away from work to care for oneself due to illness or a medical event.

Employers should also keep the following points in mind:

Eligibility: Employees eligible to use the benefit (beginning in 2020) include those who perform all of their work in Washington or a majority of their work in Washington and have worked at least 820 hours in four of the past five quarters.

Exceptions: Aside from a few exceptions, every Washington employer, including out-of-state employers that have employees in Washington, must comply with the Paid Family and Medical Leave law. Employees exempt from the rule include self-employed individuals, federal employees, federally recognized tribes, and employees who work in Washington on a temporary basis only. Additionally, employees subject to a collective bargaining agreement may have delayed program participation.

Waiver: Employers have the option of applying for a premium waiver for workers meeting the following criteria:

  • the employee is not physically based in Washington,
  • the employee works in Washington on a temporary work schedule, and
  • there is no expectation that the employee performs work in Washington for more than 820 hours.

Premium Payments: At this point in time, the initial premium is .4% of an employee’s gross wages, but this amount is subject to change by the Employment Security Department after 2020. The employer is responsible for paying at least 37% of the premium. It may choose to deduct the remaining 63% from the employee’s paycheck or pay the entire amount of the premium. Any employer with fewer than 50 employees is not required to pay the employer portion of the premium, but must still collect the employee portion. Premium payments are due on a quarterly basis and must be paid on the last day of the month following the applicable quarter.

Voluntary Plan: An employer can opt out of the requirements above and create its own voluntary plan. However, any voluntary plan must meet or exceed the benefits provided by Washington’s plan benefits. Employers must apply and be approved to operate a voluntary plan.

To Prepare: At this point, employers should make sure that they are ready to collect employee premiums. Although employers are only required to collect employee premiums beginning January 1, 2019, employers should budget for the employer’s share of the premium, which must be sent to the Employment Security Department on a quarterly basis beginning April 2019. Specific reporting requirements also go into effect on April 1, 2019.

Almost all employers in Washington are subject to this rule, so it is important to be aware of the law’s requirements. Rule-making is ongoing and the requirements outlined above are subject to modification. Please contact us to ensure you are meeting all applicable requirements or if you have any related questions.

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