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Update: Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave

by | November 4, 2019

Benefits for Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave (“PFML”) are around the corner.

Starting on January 1, 2020, employees can start taking leave and receiving benefits under the state insurance program. This provides partial wage replacement for leave for a serious health condition or family leave.

The rulemaking process for the program is still ongoing. In fact, the Phase Six rules will not be final until December 20, 2019. This date leaves just a few days, over the holidays no less, to “get with the program.” The good news? Employers are all in the same boat and Equinox is here to support you throughout the process.

We wrote about PFML previously, but have additional updates for your 2020 business planning purposes:

Supplemental Benefits Are Allowed, But…

While an employee is out on PFML leave you can provide PTO, vacation, salary continuation, or other supplemental benefits during the leave.

Remember that the state program only offers partial wage replacement up to $1000 per week, so it is great that employers can supplement or top-off the state benefits. However, it is the employee’s choice whether the benefits will be used while on leave.

While an employee is out on PFML leave you can’t require that employee to use PTO or vacation.

It is possible that an employee can save PTO or vacation time for after PFML is exhausted and do what is commonly referred to as “stacking” leave.

Covered by the federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”)?

Under FMLA, you can require that an employee use available PTO or vacation while out on leave, however, if an employee is out on leave that qualifies as both FMLA and PFML, you cannot require that he/she uses PTO or vacation leave.

What About Job Protection?

If an employee is out on leave, do you have to reinstate her/him when the leave is over? It depends.

Employee is on qualified FMLA leave: Yes, there is an obligation to reinstate.

Employee is not on qualified FMLA leave: No, there is no obligation to reinstate after PFML leave.

The employee can still apply for state benefits, but there isn’t a requirement that their job is waiting when the leave is over. An employer can choose to offer job protection even if not required.

More To Come

With Equinox

We will be discussing these topics and more on PFML during our webinar on Wednesday, November 13th at 9 a.m. You can register here.

With Washington

If you haven’t already, keep checking the state website for PFML updates and consider signing up for its newsletter to keep informed of developments. The state will provide the mandatory poster about PFML on its website before January 1, 2020