Washington Paid Family Leave

An overview of Washington's paid family leave program, including eligibility, amounts, duration, and more.

Washington was the second state in the nation to pass a paid family leave law in 2007, but it was continually put on hold for about a decade because of funding issues. However, in 2017, Washington announced its plan to fund the state’s paid family leave program. Benefits will be available beginning in 2020. (To learn more about other leave laws in Washington, see Washington Family and Medical Leave.)

Who Is Eligible for Paid Family Leave in Washington?

All employers in Washington are covered by the paid family leave law. The program is funded by a combination of employer and employee contributions through payroll deductions, which will begin in 2019. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer share of the premiums, but they must still collect the employee's share and send it to the state.

Employees are eligible for paid family leave once they work at least 820 hours in a qualifying one-year period, which is either:

  • the previous four full calendar quarters, or
  • the first four out of the last five full calendar quarters.

What Are Qualifying Reasons for Taking Paid Family Leave?

Washington’s paid family leave law pays benefits for both family leave and medical leave. Medical leave is time off for the employee to recover from a serious health condition. Family leave includes time off:

  • to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth or placement by adoption
  • to care for a family member—including a spouse, child, parent, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling—with a serious health condition, or
  • to attend to certain matters arising out of a family member’s call to active military duty (called a “qualifying exigency”) as defined under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. (To learn more about what a qualifying exigency is, see our article on military family leave.)

How Much Are Paid Family Leave Benefits in Washington?

The amount of the benefit is based on the employee’s average weekly wage and the statewide average weekly wage. Employees who make half of the state average weekly wage or less will receive 90% of their average weekly wages. For employees who make more than half of the state average weekly wage, the calculation is more complicated. However, no employee will receive less than $100 per week or more than $1,000 per week. These rates are for 2020 and will be adjusted each year in September.

For most types of leave, there is a one-week waiting period before benefits begin. However, for baby bonding leave, benefits begin right away.

How Long Are Benefits Paid?

Benefits for family leave and medical leave are generally available for 12 weeks. However, if employees need both types of leave, they can receive a combined total of 16 weeks of leave. Pregnant employees with a serious health condition that leave them incapacitated may receive 14 weeks for medical leave or 18 weeks for combined family and medical leave.

Does the Law Provide Job Protection?

Washington’s law provides job protection for employees taking family or medical leave. Job protection mirrors the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employers with 50 or more employees must reinstate employees to their previous positions or to equivalent positions with the same benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment. However, the employee must also meet certain eligibility requirements for job protection, including: having worked for the employer for at least a year and having worked at least 1,250 hours in the year preceding the leave.

How Much Notice Must an Employee Provide?

When taking leave to bond with a child, the employee must typically give the employer notice at least 30 days prior to the leave. However, if the birth or adoption was not foreseeable that far in advance, the employee must give as much notice as practicable. When taking leave for the employee’s serious health condition or a family’s members serious health condition for planned medical treatment, the employee must:

  • make reasonable efforts to schedule planned medical treatment in a way that does not unduly disrupt business operations, and
  • provide 30 days’ notice prior to taking leave, unless the treatment is scheduled less than 30 days in advance of the leave, in which case the employee must give as much notice as practicable.

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