On July 5, 2017 Governor Jay Inslee signed into law Washington’s new paid family and medical leave measure, making Washington the fifth state to create a paid family leave program – one that is fairly described as one of the most generous in the nation.

While employers and employees won’t be paying into the program until January 1, 2019, with leave benefits being available starting on January 1, 2020 – it is important that businesses take the time now to get informed and to develop their strategy about complying with the new law.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The law creates a paid family and medical leave program that offers employees 12 to 18-weeks of paid time off for birth, adoption or foster placement of a child or a serious health condition of any employee or a member of an employee’s family.
  • The program is paid for by premium payments equal to 0.4 percent of an employee’s wages – with two-thirds going toward medical leave and one-third going towards family leave.
  • While employers can elect to pay the full premium on behalf of their employees, employers are required to pay at least 37.5 percent of the premium, and may deduct the remainder from employees’ paychecks.
  • Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempted from the obligation of having to pay into the premium; their employees will pay the full amount.
  • Employers can opt out of the program if they have a similar leave plan, but must first pay a $250 fee for the Employment Security Department to evaluate whether their plan is sufficient.
  • Businesses with fewer than 150 employees may receive grants, ranging from $1000 – $3000, to offset the wage costs while an employee is on leave, but these are limited to one grant per employee and up to 10 grants per year.
It is expected that more guidance about compliance with the requirements of the new program will become available as the mechanics of its administration are settled. In the meantime, see here for the full text of the bill and here for the Seattle Times’ take on the new program.