Washington Approves Long Awaited Paid Family and Medical Leave

The Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 5975, providing for paid family and medical leave effective December 31, 2019.  Some key provisions of the new bill include:

  • Once the law goes into effect, you will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for family care-giving and 12 weeks of paid medical leave, with a combined annual cap of 16 weeks of paid leave. For those with pregnancy-related health complications, the cap is extended to 18 weeks. 
  • A key feature is portability; to be eligible, you have to have worked a threshold number of hours (820 hours in the qualifying period, which in most cases is the first 4 of the last 5 quarters), but the hours can be with different employers. Moreover, even self-employed individuals and independent contractors can elect coverage. 
  • The law also defines “family” broadly to include children, grandchildren, grandparents, parents, parents-in-law, siblings, and spouses – in recognition of the reality of family caregiving. 
  • The benefit is a progressive benefit; in other words, those who earn less will receive a larger percentage of their wage, while high-earning workers will receive a smaller percentage of their wage. 
  • The program will be funded by contributions from both employers and employees. Someone working full time at $13.50 an hour and making about $28,000 a year will pay $1.36 a week and the employer will pay $.80 week. Employers with 50 or fewer employees are exempt from paying the employer share of the premium. 
  • Employees of employers with 50 or more employees are entitled to be restored to the same or equivalent job, as with the FMLA. 

The text of the bill can be found here:http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/201718/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Passed%20Legislature/5975-S.PL.pdf

Additional information, if desired, can be found on the Seattle Times webpage:http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/washington-legislature-passes-paid-family-leave-measure/