OLYMPIA - A bill to provide updates to Washington’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave program was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday. 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.
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“Our Paid Family and Medical Leave program is the best in the nation and was developed to work for both employers and employees – this bill only enhances that,” said Employment Security Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “By allowing employers the option to supplement an employee’s Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit with other paid leave, many workers won’t be faced with losing income while taking care of themselves or a family member in a critical or challenging time of their lives.”
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. This statewide insurance program is funded by a small premium shared by both employees and employers. Employers began collecting premiums on Jan. 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, 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.
“We all need to give or receive care at some point in our lives, whether that is caring for an elderly parent or a new child, getting treatment for a serious illness like cancer or spending time with a family member on active duty military service,” LeVine added. “This program will allow Washingtonians to take paid leave during these crucial moments, and this bill will strengthen the program to make Paid Family and Medical Leave even better and more accessible for employers and employees in this state.”
The bill, sponsored by Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, 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.