Paid Family & Medical Leave - Employer


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 of you can focus on what matters.


An employee is eligible if:

  1. They have worked 820 (about 16 weeks) in Washington during the qualifying period, which is about the last year.
  2. They’ve experienced a qualifying event. Qualifying events include a serious health condition that prevents them from working, a new baby or child joining their family, and a family member’s serious illness or medical event. Here are some examples:
  • They gave birth to a baby, adopt a child or have a foster child placed with their family.
  • They are recovering from a major surgery, serious illness or injury.
  • They are receiving treatment for a chronic health condition like diabetes or epilepsy.
  • They are receiving inpatient treatment for substance abuse or for mental health.
  • They are taking care of a family member with a serious health condition.
  • Their family member is on active duty military service and they take time to be with them during R&R.
  1. They 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 they’re self-employed or employed by a federally recognized tribe, they are not automatically eligible. Self-employed people and tribes need to opt in to receive paid leave.
How much time can my employee take?

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

How does an employee apply?

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

Does my employee have to notify me?

If an employee knows about the leave before it happens, they need to give the employer written notice. at least 30 days in advance. Emails, text messages, and handwritten notes all count as notice.

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

What happens when my employee wants to take paid leave?

Paid Family and Medical Leave is structured as an insurance program. Your employees pay into the program through payroll withholding, which is remitted by you. They qualify by working 820 hours in the qualifying period, verified by employer reporting.

They must then experience a qualifying event. This event could be related to either family or medical leave. For example, an employee who is caring for their newborn would use family leave. An employee caring for themselves after a car accident would use medical leave.

After qualifying, the employee will file a claim with the Employment Security Department. This claim could be filed after the first missed day of work. In the car accident example, an employee could file their claim once they are physically able to. If the reason for leave is foreseeable, the employee must give you 30 days’ notice of their intention to take leave.

You will be notified of the employee’s claim for leave. A process for you to dispute the employee's claim will be developed in Phase 3 of Rulemaking. When the claim is approved, the employee receives their benefit payment within 14 days of the application. Payments are made biweekly after the first payment.
If you have 50 or more employees, the employee is eligible for job protection provided they have worked for you for 12 months or longer and have worked 1,250 hours in the year to date before the first day of leave.

What is the difference between Paid Family and Medical Leave and FMLA?

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.