Washington Family and Medical Leave Laws

by ECL Writer
Washington Family and Medical Leave Laws

In today’s fast-paced world, the balance between work and family life is a delicate one. Fortunately, the state of Washington recognizes the importance of supporting its residents in times of family and medical need. Washington Family and Medical Leave Laws are a crucial aspect of the state’s commitment to ensuring that employees can attend to their family’s well-being and their own health without jeopardizing their employment. These laws provide a safety net that allows workers to take necessary leave for a variety of reasons, and understanding them is essential for both employees and employers.

In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will delve into the key aspects of Washington Family and Medical Leave Laws, shedding light on how they work and what rights and responsibilities they entail for everyone involved. Whether you’re an employer looking to understand your obligations or an employee seeking to navigate these laws, this comprehensive guide will help you make informed decisions and foster a more supportive and compassionate workplace environment.

Does Washington have paid family medical leave?

Yes, Washington State offers paid family and medical leave through the Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program. This program provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year for qualifying family or medical reasons. It covers a range of situations, including bonding with a new child, caring for a seriously ill family member, or dealing with a personal medical issue. The program is funded through payroll contributions from both employees and employers, ensuring that workers can take time off to address important family and health needs while receiving partial wage replacement, promoting work-life balance and financial security.

Washington’s Family And Medical Leave Program

The Employment Security Department of Washington oversees the state-run insurance program known as the Family and Medical Leave Program. The program is funded through premiums that are paid by both businesses and employees.

The majority of employees are qualified for up to 12 weeks of paid leave every year, while some may be qualified for up to 16 weeks. In Washington, workers who take paid time off are eligible to receive up to $1,000 per week or 90% of their weekly wages.

An employee must have worked at least 820 hours (about 16 hours each week) over the previous year or so to be qualified for benefits under the scheme. Full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees are all covered under the program; however, the following employee groups are typically excluded from coverage:

  • federal workers
  • people employed by businesses located on tribal land
  • self-employed individuals who opt out of the program, and
  • certain union members subject to collective bargaining agreements.

Using Paid Family And Medical Leave

Employees may use family and medical leave for the following reasons:

  • the employee’s own illness, treatment, or preventative care
  • a family member’s illness, treatment, or preventative care, or
  • certain military connected events, including leave for short-notice deployments, urgent childcare related to military service and post-deployment activities.

According to Washington’s family leave regulations, a “family member” includes parents, spouses, grandparents, children (including stepchildren or foster children), registered domestic partners, and parents-in-law.

Employees are required to use a minimum of eight hours of paid leave each time, which for full-time employees usually equates to a full day. However, part-timers might need to take several days off if they want to take advantage of paid leave benefits.

Combined Family and Medical Leave

You may take up to 16 weeks of paid leave if you need to care for a family member in addition to dealing with your own medical concerns in the same year. You are entitled to up to 16 weeks of leave, for instance, if you get back surgery early in the year and then must care for your parent when they have a heart attack.

It can take a woman up to 16 weeks to bond with her child after giving birth. A total of 18 weeks are provided for pregnant women who become incapacitated, plus an additional two weeks.

Paid Sick Leave In Washington

All companies are required to give workers one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked under Washington’s paid sick leave statute, which is distinct from the state’s Family and Medical Leave Program. Over 40 hours of accumulated vacation time must be transferable from year to year for employees.

Employees may use sick time after working for 90 days for their own illnesses, to care for sick family members, to seek help with domestic violence issues, or when a public official closes their place of employment or their child’s school or daycare for safety concerns.

Employee Notice Requirements

Employees who need to take sick time must give their employers adequate notice. The employer may also request proof of the reason for the leave if an employee takes three consecutive paid sick days. The request for documents must be reasonable and cannot burden the employee excessively or infringe upon their right to privacy. Employers cannot demand that in order to use sick time, workers find replacements for their shifts.

Carryover and Employee Separation Rules

Employers are required to carry over any unused paid sick leave balances of 40 hours or less to the following year at the conclusion of each calendar year. (Most employers compute paid leave using the calendar year, although they are free to use the fiscal year or any other 12-month period if they like.)

When an employee leaves the company, the employer is not obligated to pay out any unused sick time. The employer must, however, reinstate all accrued but unused sick leave that was present at the time of separation if the worker is recruited back within a year.

Federal FMLA Rights

For serious health issues, bonding with a new child, or preparing for a family member’s military service, eligible Washington employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave. More leave is available for employees who must take care of a family member who was seriously injured while serving in the military.

Employers in Washington who have at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks during the current or prior year are subject to the FMLA. A worker qualifies for FMLA leave if:

  • they have worked for the company for at least a year
  • they worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous year, and
  • they work at a location with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

Reasons for Leave

FMLA leave is available if an employee needs time off to:

  • bond with a new child
  • recuperate from a serious health condition
  • care for a family member with a serious health condition
  • handle qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s military service, or
  • care for a family member who suffered a serious injury during active duty in the military. (You can find more information on these last two types of leave in¬†Military Family Leave for Employees.)

Leave and Reinstatement Rights

Employees are entitled to continue their health insurance while on leave, at the same cost they must pay while working. FMLA leave is unpaid, but employees may be allowed (or required) to use their accrued paid leave during FMLA leave.

When an employee’s FMLA leave ends, the employee is entitled to be reinstated to the same or an equivalent position, with a few exceptions.

What Is The Difference Between PFL And FMLA In Washington State?

In Washington State, two crucial leave programs serve employees who need time off for family and medical reasons: Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). While both offer support, they have key differences.


  • Payment: PFML provides eligible employees with paid leave. It replaces a portion of their wages during qualifying family or medical leave situations, providing financial security during their absence.
  • Duration: Employees can take up to 12 weeks of PFML in a year, although certain circumstances may allow for an additional two weeks (up to 16 weeks for a combination of family and medical leave).
  • Qualifying Reasons: PFML covers a broad spectrum of situations, including bonding with a new child, caring for a seriously ill family member, or dealing with a personal medical condition.
  • Funding: It is funded by contributions from both employees and employers through payroll deductions.


  • Payment: FMLA is unpaid leave. While it protects your job during your absence, it does not provide financial assistance.
  • Duration: FMLA also allows for up to 12 weeks of leave in a year but does not extend beyond this limit, regardless of the circumstances.
  • Qualifying Reasons: FMLA primarily focuses on serious health conditions, both personal and those requiring care for a family member. It also covers childbirth and adoption-related leave.
  • Funding: FMLA does not involve financial contributions; it is a job-protected leave policy.

In summary, the primary difference between PFML and FMLA in Washington State is that PFML provides paid leave, while FMLA is unpaid but ensures job protection. Employees may use PFML to receive financial support during their leave, while FMLA guarantees that they can return to their jobs after their leave is over. Understanding these distinctions can help employees make informed decisions about their leave options.

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