The Washington State Paid Family and Medical Leave Act: What You Need to Know

By April 12, 2019Nonprofit

On July 5, 2017, Governor Inslee signed the Washington Family and Medical Leave Act to help Washington state families. Effective on January 1, 2019, employers must comply with the act and ensure that employees have paid time off for family and medical leave. This makes Washington the fifth state to have such an act: California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York already have a similar law.

Under the new law, employers with 50 more employees are required to pay the premium for the coverage. If you have fewer than 50 employees, you are not required to pay for the coverage. And, if you have more than 150 employees, there are grants you can apply for to offset the cost of wages for an employee on leave.

Want to opt out? You can, but only if you have a comparable plan in place and pay an additional $250 to the state.

What the Law Covers

The law protects an employee’s job should they need to leave for a specified period due to pregnancy, childcare, or family healthcare needs. Both employers and employees pay into the system, which is administered and maintained by the state. The premium is 0.4 percent of the employee’s wages. The benefit amount itself varies according to whether or not the employee earns more or less than the state’s average weekly wage.

How the Law May Impact Your Nonprofit Organization

The Family and Medical Leave Act covers all employees, from both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, so it’s vital for nonprofits to take note and follow the law. If your employee worked 820 or more hours during the qualifying period, they’re covered.

What exactly is covered? Benefits guaranteed under this law include:

  • 12 weeks of family or medical leave.
  • 14 weeks of family or medical leave if the employee experiences a pregnancy-related serious health condition that results in incapacity.
  • 16 weeks of combined family and medical leave.
  • 18 weeks of combined family and medical leave if the employee experiences a pregnancy-related serious health condition that results in incapacity.

Premium withholding began on January 1, 2019. If you haven’t collected premiums yet, you can start at any time, but guess what? You’ll be on the hook for them. Employees can receive up to 90% of their salary if they take advantage of the leave, but the amount varies according to whether or not they are paid more or less than the state’s average wage for a week.

So how does a nonprofit prepare for the act? First, take a moment to read the booklet prepared by Washington State for employers. It’s easy to understand and walks you through how you should calculate and collect the premiums.

You will need to report the following information quarterly. The reporting periods are aligned with Unemployment Insurance reporting to make it easier.

  • UBI number
  • Business name
  • Total premiums collected from employees
  • Name of the report preparer
  • First and last name of the employee
  • Social security or ITIN number
  • Wages paid
  • Associated hours

This information is kept on file to help the state track eligible employees. When an employee takes advantage of the leave, they are paid by Washington State, not by your nonprofit.

Washington, along with the other four states who already have similar laws, is taking steps to offset any hardships caused by family situations that may disrupt employment for its citizens. As an employer, it’s up to you to follow the simple guidelines for reporting and record keeping. Together, the state and its employers can help protect citizens from undue financial hardship during life-changing events.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.