Washington State’s Paid Family Leave Program
In July of 2017, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law legislation guaranteeing paid family leave to employees across Washington State. The groundbreaking move places Washington in a small group of states who have passed such legislation. While prior law generally mandated only unpaid leave and left many employees ineligible due to the size of their employers, the new law will cover nearly all employees in Washington who have worked at least 820 hours in employment during the qualifying period. The law will offer the most generous paid leave plan in the country with a minimum of 12 weeks offered for those who qualify. The 12 weeks offered is four weeks longer than the next closest period offered (Eight weeks, New York), and the overall benefit to employees while on leave matches Washington D.C. at 90% of an individual’s income, up to a maximum weekly benefit of $1,000. In some circumstances individuals may qualify for up to 18 weeks of paid leave as well. The law goes into effect in July of 2020.
What qualifies employees for leave?
Qualifying events include the birth, adoption, or foster replacement of a child, or a serious health condition of a family member (or the employee themselves). Additionally, employees learning that their military spouses are called to active duty and qualifying military emergencies may qualify for leave. The extent of the leave depends on the specific circumstances of each case.
Most private sector employers and employees will be affected by the new legislation. Employers and employees will be subject to .4% payroll tax to pay for the program. However, employers with less than 50 employees are exempt from paying the employer premiums. Furthermore, employers with up to 150 employees can apply for grants to help pay for an employee’s leave.
With the law taking effect in 2020 now is the time to ensure you are prepared for what the law brings. At Beresford Booth, our lawyers hold extensive knowledge regarding all current legislative and employment issues. We would be pleased to work with you to help you prepare your business for the future.