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Important Information About Paid Leave Laws

Please read below for important information regarding paid leave laws in Washington state.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

With the passage of SB 5975, Washington will become the 5th state in the nation with a comprehensive paid family and medical leave insurance program. Both state and federal law already require unpaid family and medical leave. With polling conducted by both the business and labor communities showing strong support by voters for if a statewide initiative had been proposed, both sides sat down with the legislature this year to develop a compromise bill to provide paid leave. After months of intense negotiation, Governor Inslee signed SB 5975 into law on July 5.  

Starting in 2020, the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program will provide Washington employees with up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a baby or ailing family member and up to 12 weeks to tend to personal illnesses with a combined maximum annual leave total capped at 16 weeks, or 18 weeks for difficult pregnancies. Washington’s law will be the first to have a progressive benefit scale – based on a percentage of the employee’s average weekly wage. Lower wage workers can be granted up to 90% of their pay; and the maximum weekly benefit amount is $1,000 per week. Once an employee has worked 820 hours, the benefit is portable so employees don’t have to start over when taking a new job.  

The benefit will be funded by contributions from both employers (37%) and employees (63%), and will cost around $4/week per employee. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from paying the premium contribution; but employees will pay for, and be eligible to receive, the benefit. Employers may also opt out if they have their own plan that meets certain requirements. Employers with 150 or fewer employees may also quality for grants to hire temporary workers.  

A previous family leave insurance program was enacted by the legislature in 2007 but was never funded. This new program will be administered by the Employment Security Department (ESD), the agency that handles unemployment benefits. Collection of the premiums will begin on January 1, 2019, and benefit payments will begin on January 1, 2020.  

Paid Sick Leave

Paid family and medical leave is different than paid sick leave. Under Initiative 1433 (I-1433), passed by the voters in 2016, employees will be eligible for paid sick leave beginning on January 1, 2018. Paid sick leave accrues at a minimum of one hour of leave for every 40 hours worked and may be used for the employee’s or family member’s injury, illness, or health condition, or other specified circumstances. Employers must pay employees using paid sick leave at their regular rate of pay or the minimum wage, whichever is greater. Employees are eligible to use accrued sick leave beginning on the 90th calendar day after the start of employment. Unused sick leave of 40 hours or less must be carried over to the following year. Employers are allowed to provide more generous policies.  

The Department of Labor and Industries (LNI) will oversee paid sick leave and is currently in the process of developing the governing rules. LNI filed the proposed rulemaking, called a CR-102, on July 5.  

Below, please find links to the documents contained in the CR-102 filing. 

CR-102 Proposed Rule Making and Attachment 1 (Includes information about the dates, times and locations of the public hearings)
http://www.lni.wa.gov/rules/AO17/02/1702CR102.pdf

CR-102 Draft Proposed Rule Language
http://www.lni.wa.gov/rules/AO17/02/1702Proposal.pdf

Preliminary Small Business Economic Impact Statement
http://www.lni.wa.gov/rules/AO17/02/1702SBEIS.pdf

Preliminary Cost-Benefit Analysis and Least Burdensome Analysis
http://www.lni.wa.gov/rules/AO17/02/1702PCBA.pdf

These documents will also be posted to the “Document Library” of the I-1433 engagement site

The engagement site is not for written comments. Per the CR-102 – Submit written comments by mail, fax, or email by September 1, 2017 to:

Allison Drake
P.O. Box 44400
Olympia, WA 98504-4400
Email: i1433Rules@lni.wa.gov
FAX: 360-902-5300

Additional Rulemaking

As discussed in an earlier blog post, LNI will be developing the enforcement language for I-1433 in a separate rulemaking process. 

The CR-101 for the enforcement language rulemaking was also filed on July 5, 2017. A link to the CR-101 filing is provided below, and will be made available on the I-1433 engagement site. 

CR-101 Preproposal Statement of Inquiry
http://www.lni.wa.gov/rules/AO17/14/1714CR101.pdf

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