What is the Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program?
The Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program in Washington is a statewide insurance program that allows employees to receive partial wage replacement (up to 90% of weekly wages) while on leave. Both employers and employees are required to pay the premiums for the PFML insurance program to the state.
Washington state passed legislation in 2017 to collect the paid leave premiums a full year in advance (1/1/19) before employees will be able to utilize the PFML program starting on 1/1/20. There are work hour eligibility criteria that employees must meet before employees are eligible to receive PFML. PFML is similar to other family leave programs/entitlements that protect an employee’s job while an employee is out on leave and that requires the employee be returned to the same or a similar job and benefits when they return to work.
How much time can employees take off work under PFML?
The PFML allows workers to take up to 12 weeks, as needed, when they welcome a new child into their family, are struck by a serious illness or injury, need to take care of an ill or ailing relative, and for certain military connected events. If workers experience multiple events in a given year, they may be eligible to receive up to 16 weeks, or up to 18 weeks if the employee experiences a serious health condition with a pregnancy that results in incapacity.
How can Washington employers prepare for PFML?
The state gives employers the option to participate in the state PFML plan, or to have their own Paid Family and Medical Leave program through a voluntary insurance plan as long as the employer’s voluntary insurance plan offers the same or better benefits than the state plan.
Washington’s new PFML program requires almost all employers, private and public, to participate no matter how many employees they have. The two exceptions in participation are that federal and tribal employers are excluded from having to participate in the program.
Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer portion of the premium. However employers with 50 or less employees are still required to collect the premium payments from their employees’ wages and remit these employee premiums along with wage and hours worked records to the state. There are also provisions in the PFML for sole proprietors, independent contractors, partners, and joint ventures to participate in the plan with specific requirements for eligibility and premium payment.
Premium collection for the PFML is overseen and administered by the state of Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD) who has outlined the following brief requirements:
- Employers must begin collecting and remitting premiums on 1/1/2019.
- The total premium for 2019 is 0.4%, shared by the employer (37%) and employee (63%).
- An employer can elect to pay the employee’s share of the premium.
- Premiums must be remitted quarterly during the month following each completed calendar quarter to ESD.
- Premium withholdings are capped at the yearly Social Security cap, which is $128,400 for 2018.
It is a good idea for all Washington employers to notify their employees of the new deduction that will be taken from their paychecks beginning on January 1st, 2019.
What other states offer employees PFML?
The state of Washington has joined four other states (California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New York) and the District of Columbia in passing a Paid Family Medical Leave law. The federal, and typically state, Family and Medical Leave entitlements/laws are usually unpaid time off with the guarantee of job protection when an employee returns to work. More and more states are beginning to go the route of Paid Family and Medical Leave in order to provide employees with financial resources to take care of themselves and family members when ill, injured or when they have a child come into their family. Both male and female employees are eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave once they have met the eligibility criteria.
Aliat is here to help.
Employee leave entitlements/laws gets very complicated as a lot of factors such as the municipality, state, federal, sick time, type of leave, short-term disability, and for some leaves, the number of employees need to be considered. Paid Family and Medical Leave is just one more type of leave employers will to need to evaluate when an employee requests to take time off for a covered illness or situation.
If you’re a Washington employer partnered with Aliat, our team will help you set up the Paid Family and Medical Leave program.
If you’re a Washington employer who is not currently partnered with Aliat, we’d love to share how our payroll system can help you manage this new Paid Family and Medical Leave requirement. Please request a consultation to learn how a partnership with Aliat can take the HR and payroll burden off your desk.