On July 5, 2017, Washington became the latest state to enact a paid family and medical leave law, with benefits to go into effect beginning on January 1, 2020.
The new law will provide eligible workers with up to 12 weeks per year of paid medical leave for an employee’s own serious health condition, as well as 12 weeks per year of paid leave for family care purposes, including: (i) care of a family member with a serious health condition; (ii) care of a new child following birth, adoption or foster placement; or (iii) for qualifying exigencies arising out of an employee’s family member being deployed to active duty with the United States Armed Forces.
Workers will become eligible for leave under the law after 820 hours of employment. For purposes of the law, “family members” include an employee’s spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent or grandchild.
If an employee has a need for both medical and family care leave during the same 52-week period, the employee’s total leave allotment will be capped at 16 weeks. Additionally, female employees who experience complications relating to pregnancy will be eligible to receive two additional weeks of leave, for a possible 18 weeks total per year.
Employees taking leave under the law will receive up to 90 percent of their average weekly wage, subject to certain caps based on the statewide average weekly wage and up to a total cap of $1,000 per week. The program will be funded by combined contributions from the employee and the employer. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees will have the ability to opt-out of the employer pay-in requirement, but those small employers who do contribute will be eligible for state-provided reimbursement assistance. Companies that already offer paid leave that is at least equivalent to the law’s requirements shall be exempt from the program.
Washington’s law comes on the heels of New York’s paid family leave law, which will be going into effect on January 1, 2018 and, when fully phased in, will provide for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for family care purposes.