Washington State Enacts Paid Leave Law

As action at the federal government languishes, the paid family and medical leave tide is having more success at the state level.

Paid family and medical leave is coming to Washington State in 2012, courtesy of a recent law making it the fifth state to have mandatory leave. The other states are California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York (effective 2018).

Employees are eligible under the law if they have worked at least 820 hours during what the law defines as a “qualifying period,” or the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters or, if eligibility is not established, the last four completed calendar quarters immediately preceding an employee’s application for leave.

Eligible employee can take up to twelve weeks of paid time off, based on typical workweek hours, for the following reasons the birth or adoption of a child during the first twelve months after the child’s birth; the serious medical condition of the employee or the employee’s family member; or a qualifying exigency as permitted under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

An additional two weeks based on a typical workweek may be taken if there is a serious health condition related to the employee’s pregnancy. An employee is not, however, entitled to more than sixteen weeks based on a typical workweek when both medical and family related leave apply. The law specifically provides that paid leave may not exceed “twelve times the typical workweek hours during a period of fifty-two consecutive calendar weeks.” A “typical work week” is defined as forty hours for a salaried employee, and the average number of hours worked per week for an hourly employee.

Both employers and employees will pay into the state program based on percentages of the employee’s wages and the state’s weekly average wage. The first scheduled payments will begin January 1, 2019, when premiums of 0.4% of wages will start being collected.

Employers with 150 or fewer employees can apply for a grant with the state employment security department to cover costs of the premiums when certain criteria are met.

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