The State of Washington’s Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML) is an insurance program funded via premiums paid by both employers and employees.

While the program was enacted in 2017, benefits won’t be available to employees until January 1, 2020. However, employers have responsibilities that began on January 1, 2019.

What Employers Need to Know

Employer Obligations

The PFML program applies to nearly all Washington employers, including small businesses, state and local government agencies and nonprofits, and religious organizations.

Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD) has created a Paid Family & Medical Leave website (https://www.paidleave.wa.gov/employers) that provides detailed information on employer obligations and employee benefits under the PFML program. The website features a 17-page downloadable Employer Toolkit.

A statement on the website cautions that the information provided will help employers get started with the program, but employers should note that the rulemaking process is ongoing. Therefore, the ESD will update the website with additional details as they are available. Employers who wish to stay up-to-date with any changes to the PFML program may subscribe to a newsletter at the following link: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/WAESD/subscriber/new

As of January 1, 2019, employers are required to do the following:

  • Start collecting premiums for PFML
  • Budget for their share of the premium
  • Start preparing for quarterly reporting, including tracking hours & wages for all employees

Employers may withhold premiums from employees’ paychecks or pay a portion or all of the premium on behalf of their employees. To begin with, the premium will be 0.4%, but the ESD can adjust it annually after 2020.

If employers choose to withhold premiums, they may withhold up to 63.33% of the total premium. In addition, these employers must pay the remaining 36.67% and then pay total premiums to the Employment Security Department on a quarterly basis, beginning April 1, 2019.

Employee Benefits

Beginning January 1, 2020, eligible employees may receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave for:

  • Bonding after the birth or placement of a child
  • Their own serious health condition
  • A qualifying family member’s serious health condition
  • Certain military events 

For complications related to pregnancy, an additional 2 weeks of leave is available. Plus, workers may use up to 16 weeks of leave when family and medical leave are combined.

Workplace Posting Requirement

In addition to many other requirements, employers must display a poster in their places of business to notify employees about the Paid Family and Medical Leave program. The PFML website states that the mandatory workplace poster will be issued sometime before January 2020. Until then, we will keep checking for its release and will alert our customers as soon as the poster has been published.