fmla washington state

Washington State Maternity Leave: Everything Expectant Moms Need to Know About the New Paid Leave Law

Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

Washington state is a great place to work if you are looking to adopt or have a child. Washington state has some of the best-paid family leave benefits in America, as the Washington FMLA (Paid Family and Medical Leave) program was implemented in 2020.

FMLA in Washington State

How many weeks of paid maternity leave can I get?

Your employer may offer paid maternity leave as part of your benefits package. You will still be eligible for up to 12 weeks’ partial pay if you want to bond with your new child.

This is not all. You can get up to 16 weeks of partially-paid leave each year if you have to take extra time to care for someone you love or for serious medical issues. You might also be eligible for up to 18 weeks partially paid leave if you have pregnancy-related medical issues.

If your employer offers more paid leave than the state program (16 weeks of fully-paid leave), then that’s what you will receive.

How much will I be paid?

Washington uses a sliding-scale method to calculate your paid maternity benefit. Workers earning less than the state’s weekly income receive 90%, while workers who earn more are paid 50% of their wages for incomes above that amount. The maximum is $1,206 per week in 2022. Find out exactly what that means for your situation. You can find out how much you are entitled to Washington Paid Family & Medical Leave by using the calculator.

Although employers are not required by law to pay more than their share for the state-funded paid leave insurance program premiums, some employers will.

Are all companies required to offer leave?

Chamberlain states that all employees who worked at least 820 hours in Washington in the past four quarters are eligible for paid leave. This includes independent contractors and self-employed people (who need to opt-in). It can be transferred from one employer to another. To be eligible for benefits, a worker does not need to have worked 820 hours with one employer.

Not all workers are automatically eligible. This includes federal employees and tribal workers. Also, workers who work for businesses on tribal land or workers covered under a collective bargaining arrangement that hasn’t expired, been revised, or renegotiated after Oct. 19, 2017. If you’re unsure, ask your employer or union representative.

Washington’s leave law does not require that small employers with fewer than 50 employees keep your job during your leave. This means that if you work in a small business, your leave will be paid, but you might not have a job after the leave. Before you take leave, it’s a good idea to talk about this with your employer. Your employer may be able to fire you for taking leave under other employment laws. If your employer refuses to hold your job, or you are fired for taking leave, consult an attorney to find out if you have rights.

When can my leave start? When I’m still pregnant?

You are entitled to unlimited leave if you are suffering from serious health conditions that affect your ability to work. Your employer may also offer paid disability benefits. These private-funded benefits usually pay a portion of your salary.

Employers are required by Washington state law to give pregnant employees leave to cover pregnancy-related illnesses or disabilities. The amount of time that a woman can take off for pregnancy-related disability is determined by her doctor. This pregnancy leave is not limited. Your employer must also pay you if it provides sick leave paid for other types or disabilities. Chamberlain says that employers have to treat pregnant women suffering from disabilities or illnesses in the same way as other sick or disabled employees.

Washington also passed a new law this year, expanding the rights of pregnant workers. This is to help them receive reasonable accommodations from their employers. 

Do I need to take my leave all at once?

You have twelve months to use it all, starting at the time of your child’s birth or adoption. The state website says that you can only claim eight hours of continuous leave per week or zero-hours for intermittent leave. You can, for example, take one day off each week to care of a loved one who is undergoing chemotherapy. You can also take your leave for up to two weeks after your major surgery.

Can I use only part of the benefit or is it all or nothing?

You can get a portion of the benefit if you need to return to work sooner than the full leave ends. If they are unable to afford to live on a small portion of their wages, some workers opt to return to work earlier than the full leave. This is important to know: The Washington law gives almost all wages to low-wage workers. The state legislature wanted to ensure that new parents were able to spend time with their child.

If you decide to return to work before you have used all your leave time you can keep the rest of it in reserve for 12 months for the time after your baby is born or adopted.

Can my spouse or partner get parental leave?

This law applies to both men and women, and is applicable to both straight and mixed-sex households. Many families choose to let one parent go on leave first and then have the second parent return to work. You’ll each receive 12 weeks if you work for the same company.

What if I adopt, foster or use a surrogate?

Washington state FMLA mentions they will pay a portion of your salary for any addition to your family via adoption, surrogacy, foster parenting, or pregnancy. All you need is the appropriate documentation (e.g., birth certificate or adoption papers).

Does it cover anything besides welcoming a new child?

Washington’s law is among the most inclusive in the country. It covers bonding with a newborn child but also includes caregiving for a family member who is seriously ill. You can also take leave to care for family members while serving in the military. If you have a serious condition, medical leave is also available.

Can I combine this with the Washington State Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or any short-term disability benefits I may be entitled to?

You must also take FMLA leave if you’re eligible (which allows you to take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave). FMLA gives you job protection. Your employer must hold your job until you return from maternity.

Is the leave pay taxed?

This is where it gets blurry, there is no statement whether the IRS considered the paid leave benefits taxable income. Even if customers ask them directly, they decline to reply. That is why it’s best to consult a tax professional for advice.

What do I have to do to get the money and by when? How am I paid?

It is very simple! If the event is not foreseeable, notify your employer at least thirty days in advance. You can apply online once you have had a qualifying event, such as if you give birth to a baby or care for an ailing parent. A determination letter will be sent to you. After that, you must wait for your benefits to become available. To get paid weekly, you will file claims online. You can also receive your money by direct deposit to your bank account or a prepaid card that you can use anyplace.

Are there any monetary caps on the benefit annually or during one’s lifetime?

Washington law does not have monetary caps. However, it does have weekly caps that limit how much you can be paid. The maximum benefit you can get, regardless of how much you earn in Washington is $1,206 per Week in 2021. This amount will be reviewed annually. As for your lifetime? No limit.

Do I still receive my benefits while I’m out?

Yes. Your employer must continue your benefits as if you were still working. If your employer allows you to accumulate for relief, this means that you can still accrue seniority and benefits. While you are entitled to health insurance benefits while on leave, your employer will require that you contribute.

How is this paid for?

This program is funded by employer contributions and deductions from wages. The payroll tax is a 0.4% percentage that employees pay. This means that if you earn $50,000 annually, you will pay $2.42 per week into a state-managed fund while your employer will pay $1.42. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempted from the contribution, but the employees still need to pay it.

What about businesses that provide employer-paid maternity leaves? They have the option to opt-out of the state-funded plan but must have a voluntary plan where they provide paid family and/or hospital leave that matches or exceeds that provided by the state plan. Voluntary plans must be approved by businesses and employees’ wages and hours reported to the state.

Where do I go if I have more questions?

The Washington FMLA state website is an excellent resource. However, if you have any questions, you can email them, or call (833) 717-2273.

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