As of January 1, Washington state began implementation of a generous paid family and medical leave program. Some argue, it’s one of the most generous in the nation. It allows employees to take up to 12 weeks (or more, depending on circumstances) of paid time off to care for new children or deal with illnesses.

Washington is the fifth state in the nation to offer such benefits. Is your state the next to adopt similar rules? We wrote about a new sick leave law in California back in 2015. Since, over 20 other states have followed suit, or at least proposed similar regulations. So even if your business doesn’t operate in Washington, you might want to keep this information on hand.


Employees in the state of Washington may use Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits starting in 2020. Generally, these benefits allow up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year for care of yourself or family.  There are circumstances where the employee may be entitled to up to 16 weeks of a combination of paid family and medical leave.

When an employee returns from leave, he or she is allowed to return to the same or an equivalent job as well as the same employment benefits accrued before taking the leave.

Workers and employers will contribute premiums together through payroll withholding.


This statewide insurance program is funded through premiums paid by nearly all employees in Washington and many of their employers. For 2019, the rate is 0.4% of an employee’s wage, about 63 percent paid by the worker and about 37 percent paid by the employer.

An example given from the official paid leave website explains this as so:

If an employee makes about $50,000 a year:

  • The employee pays about $2.44 per week.
  • Employer pays about $1.41 a week.
  • The employee receives a benefit of about $778 per week when out of Paid Family and Medical Leave.


Which employees are eligible for paid family leave benefits?

Any employee who has completed 820 hours of work for an employer in Washington state during the qualifying period. A qualifying period is either:

  • The first four of the last five full calendar quarters.
  • The last four complete calendar quarters.

Exceptions include:

  • Self employed individuals (with a May opt-in)
  • Federal employees
  • Federally recognized tribes (with a May opt-in)
  • People who work temporarily in Washington

The benefit must be taken in response to a qualifying event.

Qualifying events include:

  • Care and bond after the birth of a child or placement of a child younger than 18.
  • Care for a family member’s illness or medical event.
  • Military-connected events.
  • Care for oneself in relation to an illness or medical event.

Is participation mandatory?

Nearly all employers in the state of Washington have responsibilities under the Paid Family and Medical Leave program.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees don’t have to pay the employer portion of the premium, but must remit employee premiums and report employee wages, hours, and more to the Employment Security Department (ESD).

Voluntary plans may be an option for businesses who want to implement their own paid family and/or medical leave programs, however employers must be approved to do so.

Employer responsibilities.

Paid Family and Medical Leave is a statewide insurance program that says employers are responsible for:

  • Reporting employee wages, hours worked, and other information.
  • Collect and remit premiums.
  • Display a mandatory poster notifying employees of the program (available before Jan. 2020).

Reporting requirements.

Employer are required to report employee information to ESD quarterly. That means the first report is due April 30 and tracking of employee hours and wages should’ve begun on Jan. 1.

Here’s what all you’ll need:

Reporting fields –

  • UBI
  • Business name
  • Total premiums collected (if any) from employees
  • Name of the report preparer

For each employee –

  • SSN or ITIN
  • Last name
  • First name
  • Middle initial
  • Wages paid in the reporting quarter and the associated hours

If you’d like to learn more details on Washington’s family leave law, please click here.

How PrimePay can help.

PrimePay is set up to help you stay compliant. Here’s how.

PrimePay will track and manage employee and employer contributions by managing payroll for your business.

With our HR Advisory solution, you can contact a certified HR advisor for guidance related to a specific employee situation to determine if it qualifies, and how best to treat maintaining proper records.

For more on our payroll solution, click here or fill out the form below. For more on HR Advisory, please click here.

Disclaimer: Please note that this Q&A is not all inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may be applicable to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Consult your own legal advisor regarding specific application of the information to your own plan.