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Legal Alert

Washington Paid Family And Medical Leave Is Imminent: Are You Ready?


Washington employers, get ready. Starting January 1, 2019, the state’s Employment Security Department (ESD) will begin collecting premium payments from employers so the historic Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program can be implemented. While the benefits will not be able to be accessed by workers until 2020, don’t be fooled into thinking that you still have another year to prepare for this new law; you need to begin your preparations now. What do Washington employers need to know to get ready?

The Basics

Under Washington’s new PFML program, eligible employees will be entitled to paid leave up to 12 weeks for “qualifying events,” such as their own serious health condition or to care for sick family members (with up to 16 weeks combined family and medical leave), and up to two additional weeks for certain pregnancy complications. These benefits, not accessible until 2020, will be available to employees who have worked at least 820 hours for a covered employer in the prior four out of five complete calendar quarters before the need for leave.

Immediate Steps You Need To Take

There are three main steps you will need to take starting January 1: collect premiums from your workers, provide the proper notice, and determine whether you will be remitting your share each quarter.

First Quarter 2019 Steps—And Beyond

There are also a host of additional considerations you should take into account for the first quarter of 2019 and beyond. Here is a good list of things you should consider for the new year:

Some Consequences for Failed Compliance

Employers who fail to collect the employee’s share of the premium will be stuck having to pay it. And you cannot go back any length of time to collect missed premium deductions.

ESD will have broad authority to audit, investigate complaints, and impose penalties. The agency can file a civil suit, which must be given priority hearing, to force payments. If an employer fails to remit required payments, for example, the employer must pay the entire balance owed, plus 1 percent monthly interest (compounded), and double those amounts as penalties.


The law is complex, and as with any new law, challenging. For help with compliance steps or to answer questions, please contact your Fisher Phillips attorney or any attorney in our Seattle office.

This Legal Alert provides information about a specific state law. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation.


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