What’s in the new family and medical leave law

Washington’s New Paid Family and Medical Leave Program

How it will work:

Washington’s paid family and medical leave program will work like insurance. Workers and their employers will both pay a small premium with each paycheck, and then workers will receive a benefit from the state when they need family leave or extended medical leave. Benefit payments will be available beginning January 1, 2020.

What is covered:

Family leave
Up to 12 weeks in a year to care for:

  • A newborn or newly placed adopted or foster child (available for both parents)
  • A family member with a serious health condition (child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild)
  • A family member injured in military service, or to deal with exigencies of military deployment

Medical leave
Up to 12 weeks in a year for a worker’s own serious health condition, with an additional 2 weeks for a complication related to pregnancy

Total leave in a year of combined leave = 16 weeks or 18 weeks if it includes a pregnancy-related complication

Benefits will be 90% of usual wages for lower income workers and top off at $1,000 per week (adjusted for inflation).

Examples:

Someone working full-time at $13.50 an hour would usually make $540 per week and would have a weekly benefit of $486
(90%).

Someone making $54,000 per year ($1,040 per week) would have a weekly benefit of $736 (71%).

Someone making $85,000 per year ($1,635 per week) would have a weekly benefit of $1,000 (61%).

Who is covered:

Everyone who worked 820 or more hours in the previous year.

Fully portable between jobs, including periods between jobs – for example, a construction worker who moves from job to job could schedule a surgery for after the current job will end.

Self-employed people and contract workers may opt in for 3-year minimums

Premiums:

(contributions begin in January 2019)

Workers will pay 63%, employers 37%

Companies with fewer than 50 employees will be excused from paying the employer share.

Their employees will pay the same as they would in a larger company.

Premiums will be set at 0.4% of pay up to $127,200 (Social Security wage base) and are expected to stay close to that level in the future, based on usage rates from states with similar programs.

Examples:

Someone making $28,000 (working full-time at $13.50) will pay $1.36 per week, and the employer will pay $.80 per week.

Someone making $54,000 per year will pay $2.62 per week, and the employer $1.54.

Someone making $85,000 per year will pay $4.12 per week, and the employer $2.42.

Business assistance:

Companies with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer share of premiums, but may choose to do so to be eligible for small business assistance funds.

Companies with fewer than 150 employees that pay employer premiums may apply for $3,000 to cover costs of training new replacement workers, or up to $1,000 for other costs (such as overtime of training a current employee for additional work) of covering work when someone is out on leave.

Companies that temporarily hire replacement workers will not be charged higher unemployment insurance rates if that temporary worker applies for unemployment.

Companies may opt to provide their own benefits of equal length and at least equal financial compensation and apply for a waiver from the state program.

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