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Washington Paid Family & Medical Leave Begins January 1, 2019

The Washington State Legislature passed a law in 2017 to provide partial wage replacement to Washington workers who take leave to recover from an injury or illness or to care for an ill or injured family member. The Paid Family & Medical Leave program will be funded through premiums paid by employers and premiums collected from employee paychecks. Premium collection begins January 1, 2019. Employees can begin claiming benefits on January 1, 2020.

The total premium for 2019 is 0.4% of gross wages. Workers will pay 63% of the premium and employers pay the remaining 37%. All employees who primarily work in Washington are subject. Employers can opt to pay the entire premium on their employees' behalf. Employers with fewer than 50 Washington employees are exempt from the employer portion of the premium but are still required to collect the employee portion and remit to the Employment Security Department. Premiums are due quarterly and must be remitted before the end of the month following each quarter.

Employees who have worked 820 hours in the qualifying period are eligible for benefits. The qualifying period is the first four of the last five full calendar quarters or the last four full calendar quarters. Eligible employees are entitled to 12 weeks of paid family leave, 12 weeks of paid medical leave, or a combination of the the two up to 16 weeks total. Family leave covers time taken to care for injured or ill family members and to bond with a newly born or placed child. Medical leave covers time taken to care for a personal injury or illness.

Employees will receive a percentage of their average weekly wage earned during the two highest quarters in the qualifying period. The maximum weekly benefit is $1,000 and the minimum will not be less than $100 unless the employee's average weekly wage at the time of leave is less than $100 per week. In that instance, the employee will receive their full wage.

Employers with 50 or more employees must provide job protection to employees returning from leave if they have been employed 12 months or longer and worked at least 1250 hours in the year to date before the first day of leave. Employees must be restored to the same or equivalent job they held prior to their leave.

Small business status (50 or fewer employees) will be determined by the Employment Security Department on September 30th of each year. The department will average the number of employees reported over the last four completed quarters. The determination will be made based on actual headcount, not a count of full time equivalent employees.

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