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Understand

Paid Family and Medical Leave is a benefit for when a serious health condition prevents you from working or when you need time to care for a family member or new child. It provides paid time off when you need it most, offering stability and peace of mind so you can focus on what matters.

You are eligible if:

  1. You have worked 820 (about 16 weeks) in Washington during the qualifying period, which is about the last year.
  2. You’ve experienced a qualifying event. Qualifying events include a serious health condition that prevents you from working, a new baby or child joining your family, and a family member’s serious illness or medical event. Here are some examples:
  • You give birth to a baby, adopt a child or have a foster child placed with your family.
  • You are recovering from a major surgery, serious illness or injury.
  • You are receiving treatment for a chronic health condition like diabetes or epilepsy.
  • You are receiving inpatient treatment for substance abuse or for mental health.
  • You are taking care of a family member with a serious health condition.
  • Your family member is on active duty military service and you take time to be with them during R&R.
  1. You are not a federal employee, employed by an employer who has an approved exemption because paid family and medical leave benefits are provided through a voluntary plan, or covered by a collective bargaining agreement that hasn’t been opened or renegotiated since before October 19, 2017. If you’re self-employed or employed by a federally recognized tribe, you are not automatically eligible. Self-employed people and tribes need to opt in to receive paid leave.


Most eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave a year. If you give birth to a baby, you qualify for up to 16 weeks of paid leave. In some circumstances, you may qualify for up to 18 weeks.
You don’t have to take your leave all at once. For example, you may take one day off a week to support a family member undergoing chemotherapy treatment.


Starting in January 2020, you can apply through the Paid Family and Medical Leave website.


If you know about your leave before it happens, you’ll need to give your employer written notice at least 30 days in advance. Emails, text messages, and handwritten notes all count as notice. You’ll need to include the date you gave notice to your employer on the application for paid leave that you submit to the state, so keep a record of the notice.

When you apply for benefits, the state will send a notice to your employer that lists the type of leave you’re applying for (medical or family), the dates you expect to be on leave and the date you gave your employer notice of your plan to take leave.


Paid Family and Medical Leave is a state program. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal program. In short, Paid Family and Medical Leave does not replace FMLA. While there are some similarities between the programs, there are also notable differences such as: 
•    The state program (Paid Family and Medical Leave) provides paid leave. FMLA is unpaid leave. 
•    Paid Family and Medical Leave is based on typical workweek hours, not to exceed 12 times the typical workweek hours during the claim year. An employee may take up to 12 workweeks of leave with FMLA. 
•    Paid Family and Medical Leave includes grandchildren, grandparents and siblings as qualifying family members, in addition to spouses, children and parents. 
•    Paid Family and Medical Leave is funded through premiums paid by employers and workers. 
•    There is no 75-mile radius component to Paid Family and Medical Leave job protection. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees do not have requirements under FMLA, but they must collect and remit employee premiums and complete required reporting for Paid Family and Medical Leave.

If you have any questions, please contact your HR Business Partner or the DES Leave Administrator.