Washington’s new bill strengthens Paid Family and Medical Leave program
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Washington’s new bill strengthens Paid Family and Medical Leave program

By Payroll and Entitlements Editorial Staff

A bill to provide updates to Washington’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave program was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on April 3. House Bill 1399 makes several technical corrections to the new program, and clarifies a key provision related to supplementing wages while an employee is out on leave. The Employment Security Department operates the program.

When benefits become available in January 2020, Paid Family and Medical Leave will provide partial wage replacement to all eligible workers in Washington state for leave to bond with a new child coming into the home through birth, adoption or foster placement; to care for themselves or a family member during a serious illness or injury; and for certain military-related events. The statewide insurance program is funded by a small premium shared by both employees and employers. Employers began collecting premiums on January 1, 2019.

Under the original law, employers would not be allowed to supplement the pay of an employee out on Paid Family and Medical Leave with other forms of paid leave, including vacation or sick leave. HB 1399 changes this criterium, essentially allowing an employee the option to top-off their Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit with company-provided paid leave. This is in alignment with other states’ policies and was supported by stakeholders representing the interests of both employers and employees.

The bill also makes some technical corrections to the 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.

HB 1399 was sponsored by Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, and passed with wide bipartisan support and with no opposition from stakeholders in Senate or House committees. More information about Paid Family and Medical Leave can be found at paidleave.wa.gov.

Ombuds. The Office of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Ombuds recently launched its new website with information about services and resources for workers and employers who need help resolving issues with the Employment Security Department and the Paid Family and Medical Leave program. The office works to improve Paid Family and Medical Leave by making recommendations based upon the results of complaint investigations in an impartial, efficient, and timely manner. See paidleaveombuds.wa.gov for more information (ESD Communications #18,025, #18,026, 4/3/2019, 4/4/2019).

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