Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday signed into law updates to “strengthen” and “clarify” Washington’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave program, which will offer up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for employees beginning in 2020.
The amended law, HB 1399, makes several technical corrections to the program and clarifies a key provision related to supplementing wages while an employee is out on leave, according to a press release from the Employment Security Department, which operates the program.
“Our Paid Family and Medical Leave program is the best in the nation and was developed to work for both employers and employees — this bill only enhances that,” said Employment Security Commissioner, Suzi LeVine, in the release. “By allowing employers the option to supplement an employee’s Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit with other paid leave, many workers won’t be faced with losing income while taking care of themselves or a family member in a critical or challenging time of their lives.”
The program’s benefits will be available to employees in January 2020. It will provide partial wage replacement to all eligible workers in Washington state for leave to bond with a new child — whether it comes into the home via birth, adoption, or foster placement — as well as to care for themselves or a family member during a serious illness or injury, and for certain military-related events.
The insurance program is funded by a premium shared by both employees and employers. Employers began collecting the premiums on Jan. 1 of this year. For 2019, the premium is 0.4 percent of each employee’s gross wages, minus tips. A calculator that can be used to estimate premiums is available online.
Employers are responsible for paying 36.67 percent of the .4 percent of employees’ gross wages, and employees are responsible for 63.33 percent. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer portion of the premium but are required to remit employee-paid premiums to the Employment Security Department and abide by reporting requirements.
Under the original law, employers couldn’t supplement employees’ pay under the Paid Family and Medical Leave with other forms of paid leave, such as vacation or sick leave. The new law allows employees the option of topping off their paid family and medical leave benefit with company-provided paid leave.
Technical corrections also are part of the new law, including clarifications related to employer-run voluntary plans, appeal rights for employees covered by a voluntary plan, disclosure and privacy provisions, and some definitions within the law.
“We all need to give or receive care at some point in our lives, whether that is caring for an elderly parent or a new child, getting treatment for a serious illness like cancer, or spending time with a family member on active duty military service,” LeVine said in the release. “This program will allow Washingtonians to take paid leave during these crucial moments, and this bill will strengthen the program to make Paid Family and Medical Leave even better and more accessible for employers and employees in this state.”
More information about Paid Family and Medical Leave can be found online.