Washington recently became the 5th state to adopt a paid family leave law. Washington’s version offers longer leave times and is portable between jobs, which has experts touting it as the nation’s strongest program of its kind. Administered by the Employment Security Department, it is set up as a kind of insurance plan with premium costs shared by employees and employers. Employees with 820 hours of employment service in the year, who experience a life event that requires them to “give or receive care” can make a claim, and then receive partial salary continuation benefits for 12 weeks, or as long as 16-18 weeks in some extreme situations. Read on for how employers will be impacted.
Almost every employer has obligations under this new law. Employers should have begun collecting premiums January 1, 2019. If you didn’t yet, don’t worry. You can begin now, just provide one pay period notice to employees. Premiums are due to the state at the end of the calendar month immediately after the end of a calendar quarter, beginning April 30, 2019. However, there was a change for Q1 of 2019, only. The first round of premiums are not due until July. Click here for more information.
Premiums are equal to .04% of an employee’s wages (gross earnings, pretax). Employers can choose to pay an employee’s portion of the premium creating a rich benefit offering, or cost share with the employee. Employers who choose to withhold premiums from their employees may withhold up to 63.33% of the total premium. The employer is responsible for paying the other 36.67%.
Employers will also want to prepare to begin reporting headcounts, hours worked and premiums collected. There are fines for employers who neglect this responsibility, so you’ll want a system in place ensure you remain compliant. Once a quarter, employers will login to their account at SecureAccessWashington (SAW) to file.
Employers may choose to offer a voluntary plan as an alternative. There will be an approval process, but as long as the benefit is equal or greater than the state benefits, employers can expect their plan to be approved.
Beginning January 1, 2020, eligibility for benefits under the plan opens. Employees who experience a qualifying life event and have worked 820 hours or more in the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior will be eligible to make a claim. The life event can either be medical or family related and will allow the employee to take up to 12 weeks paid leave. An employee earning 50k a year, can expect to receive about $778 per week under the law. Federal workers and self-employed workers are exempt from participating, but self-employed workers can opt in, and thus gain access to the benefit. Claims will be managed online, and more information will be available closer to the launch date, as the website is developed.