State Rolls Out New Paid Family Medical Leave Benefit

Washington made history this year by becoming the fifth state in the nation to offer paid family and medical leave, or PFML benefits, and arguably the most forward-thinking one in the nation. This benefit that starts January 2020 offers partially paid leave to care for yourself or a loved one in times of serious illness or injury; to bond with a new child joining your home through birth, adoption or foster placement; and for certain military-connected events if you have a family member in active duty service.

The PFML program is funded by premiums paid by both employees and employers and is administered by the Employment Security Department. Under the PFML program, the Employment Security Department will replace up to 90% of an eligible employee's typical weekly wage (up to $1,000 per week).

Next steps

Those who may need to take leave in 2020 and beyond may be wondering how the new PFML benefit will work in tandem with other leave benefits the state provides. The law was amended during the 2019 legislative session to allow an employer the ability to offer “supplemental benefits,” using resources such as an employee's accrued paid leave, which would be in addition to the PFML wage replacement benefit. The Office of Financial Management is evaluating what is feasible with current state organization payroll and human resource systems. We are mindful that you may be waiting for more information for planning a leave of absence, and will provide you that information as quickly and as completely as we can.

Important information

An employee is eligible for PFML benefits after working 820 hours for an employer in the state of Washington during the qualifying period. If there is insufficient information to verify the number of hours worked when determining eligibility ESD will verify that information with your employer.

Beginning January 1, 2020, you may apply for PFML benefits through the ESD portal at https://www.paidleave.wa.gov/login.

After a waiting period of seven consecutive calendar days, benefits are payable when a family or medical leave is requested and approved. There is no required waiting period for leave for the birth or placement of a child.

The decision to take paid family or medical leave is your choice and we may not compel you to take your accrued paid leave in place of or before receiving the new PFML benefit.

  • If you know you will need to take leave for a foreseeable event, like the birth of a child or a planned surgery, you need to give Human Resources 30 days' notice in writing.
  •  If you need to take leave for an unforeseeable event, like an accident or sudden illness, you need to tell Human Resources as soon as it is possible and practicable for you to do so. If you are unable to provide notice yourself, someone else can do so on your behalf.  For example, if you're having emergency surgery, your spouse, parent, coworker or neighbor could call or send an email to Human Resources for you. However, if you could have given Human Resources at least 30 days' notice but chose not to, ESD may temporarily deny or delay your benefit payments.
  • Provide documentation to Human Resources showing your leave is approved by ESD and continue to follow the leave submission process.

To learn more about the PFML benefit, please visit the ESD PFML website at https://www.paidleave.wa.gov/workers. Here you will find an introductory video along with FAQs.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to support our employees. If you have questions about current leaves of absence, email Julie Moon at Julie.moon@wwu.edu.

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Monday, December 2, 2019 - 3:13pm

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