With a few exceptions, all employers with one or more employees in WA are required to participate in the state program or adopt a state-approved, employer-funded plan.
July 25, 2021: The definition of family member expanded to include certain people who regularly live with the employee or certain people who rely on the employee for care.
August 1, 2021: Eligible workers whose employment was affected by COVID-19 can apply for state leave assistance grants.
June 9, 2022: Second Substitute Senate Bill 5649 becomes effective. This bill adds Bereavement of a new child (newborn, adopted or foster) as a reason an individual may request Leave under WA PFML.
July 1, 2023: WA State will launch the WA Cares Fund program for eligible employees. This long-term care program is solely administered by the state. The WA Cares Fund program originally launched on Jan 1, 2022, but was later delayed until the new date in July 2023. All questions about the WA Cares Fund program should be directed to the state. Please refer to the state’s Employer Information and Responsibilities for the latest employer recommendations and insights regarding premium collection.
Tools and Resources
The Hartford has prepared guides to help employers with employees in WA.
PODCAST: Preparing for PFML in WA
WA provides resources to help employers.
The Hartford is providing this information as a resource and does not control the content of third-party websites.
What Is Covered Under the State Program?
Eligible employees can take leave to:
- Welcome a new child (through birth, adoption, or foster placement)
- Recover from one’s own serious health condition
- Care for a family member with a serious health condition
- Respond to certain military-connected events, such as the time required to prepare for a family member’s pre- or post-deployment
- Bereavement of a new child (newborn, adopted or foster)
What Are the State Plan Benefits?
Employees may be entitled to one of the following leaves each year:
- Up to 12 weeks of Family Leave
- Up to 12 weeks of personal Medical Leave*
- Up to a total of 16 weeks for a combination of Paid Family and Medical Leave
During the leave period, eligible employees may receive up to 90 percent of their average weekly wage depending on their average earnings in a period of time prior to their leave, to a weekly maximum of $1,427 for claims initiated in 2023 and increasing to $1,456 for 2024. The minimum weekly benefit is $100.
* Two additional weeks when the leave is for incapacitation due to pregnancy complications; this may extend the total combined paid family and medical leave benefit up to 18 weeks.
What Are the State Plan Eligibility Requirements?
To qualify for paid benefits, the employee must have worked at least 820 hours in WA for any employer before applying for leave. Benefits are calculated based on the two highest quarters from either of the following time periods: the first 4 of the last 5 completed calendar quarters OR the last 4 completed calendar quarters (about 16 hours per week on average). All paid work in WA over the course of the qualifying period counts toward the 820-hour minimum, including part-time, seasonal, and temporary work.
While receiving benefits, an employee may also be entitled to job protection if their employer has 50 or more employees. Under the state plan, an employee must have worked for that employer 12 months and have 1250 hours worked in the prior 52 weeks.
Temporary COVID-19 Assistance: Washington’s PFML law was temporarily amended to provide leave assistance grants to certain workers who did not meet the hours worked eligibility requirement due to COVID-19 impacts. Employees can begin to apply to the state for these grants August 1, 2021. The grants apply to leaves with an effective start date in 2021 through March 31, 2022. Certain small employers participating in the state program may also be eligible for grants to defray the costs of employees out on leave. The temporary grant program expires June 30, 2023, subject to the availability of federal funding.
Do All Employers Need to Participate?
Businesses and organizations of all sizes are required to participate, whether in the state program or a voluntary plan. Exceptions include:
- Self-employed individuals (may opt in to the state plan)
- Federal employers
- Federally recognized tribal employers (may opt in to the state plan)
Can Any Qualifying Employees Be Exempted From Coverage?
You may request a waiver of premium for employees who are:
- Primarily performing work outside Washington
- Employed in Washington on a limited/temporary basis
How Is the State Program Funded?
The program is funded through contributions, also called premiums, equal to a percentage of each employee’s wages, up to the Social Security maximum. The amount is paid through an employee’s payroll deductions. The premium equals 0.8 percent in 2023, and decreases to 0.74 percent in 2024.
- Starting January 1, 2023: The employee pays up to 72.76 percent of the premium and the employer pays the remaining 27.24 percent.
- Starting January 1, 2024: The employee pays up to 71.43 percent of the premium and the employer pays the remaining 28.57 percent.
Employers may choose to cover all or some of the premium on the employee’s behalf. This will be further broken out for the state Medical Leave vs. the Family Leave plans.
Premiums to the state are due on a quarterly basis in the month following the end of a quarter. Premiums for voluntary plans need to be held in a trust account.
Are There Exceptions to the Premium Requirements?
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees in WA are not required to pay the employer portion, but still must collect and remit the employee portion to the state.
What Are the Requirements for Voluntary Plans?
You can opt out of either the state family leave and/or the state medical leave plan if you have a state-approved voluntary paid-leave program that offers comparable or more generous benefits than the state plan. Once you are approved to self-fund a voluntary plan, all contributions from the first of the month in the quarter following the approval can go toward your voluntary plan instead of the state plan.
- Voluntary plans need to be approved by the state each year for the plan’s first three years. Thereafter, approval is required only when changes are made.
- The contribution amount to a voluntary plan is the same as for the state plan. You may waive employee contributions if you wish.
- You must hold all premiums collected and any income earned in a trust account specifically identified for that purpose within a financial institution.
- Employers must still report employee wages and hours worked each quarter with a voluntary plan. Please reference the WA PFML Employer Guide for more information on required information and manual vs single filing options.
- Employers must provide notice in writing of the PFML program such as the payroll deductions to new employees and/or new employees working in WA or face penalties. The state has made a poster and a paystub insert available.
- To learn more about the considerations for a private plan, please review the WA Private & State Plan Considerations Flyer for reference.
Is The Hartford Offering PFML Coverage in WA?
We are offering Administrative Services Only (ASO) on employers’ self-funded plans for the Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave program. While employers with private plans are expected to be able to access certain information from the state, they may experience challenges in getting this information in a timely and efficient manner. Therefore, we believe the ASO approach, at this time, will reduce those challenges for employers rather than splitting benefits between a private plan and the State.
Please reach out to your employee benefits representative at The Hartford for additional information.
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This informational material is subject to change as The Hartford continues to receive guidance from states and municipalities. It shall not be considered legal advice. The Hartford assumes no responsibility for legal compliance with respect to an employer’s business practices, and the views and recommendations contained herein shall not constitute The Hartford’s undertaking on a company’s behalf, or for the benefit of others, to determine or warrant that an employer’s business operations are in compliance with any law, rule, or regulation. Employers seeking resolution of specific legal or business issues, questions, or concerns regarding this topic should consult their own attorney or business advisors; and employees should continue to consult their employers’ Human Resources or other employment benefits department for guidance on the application of any law, rule, or regulation.
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