Starting in 2020, workers across Washington state will have access to paid family and medical leave

Back in 2017, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill enacting a sweeping statewide paid family and medical leave program. Now, the novel initiative is finally getting off the ground.

Starting Jan. 1, small premiums are being deducted from all workers' paychecks and funnelled into a state fund to finance paid family and medical leave benefits. The benefits can be used to care for a newborn or recently placed child under the age of 18, as well as for personal or family illness. Some military-related events, such as short-notice deployment, are also covered.

In companies with more than 50 workers, the premiums will be split between employee and employer; for smaller businesses, employers are required to report and submit only the worker's portion of the premium. The premium for 2019 is .4 percent of an employee's gross wages. For an employee earning $2,500 in a pay period, the premium is $10, of which the maximum employee share would be 63 percent, or $6.33.

Clare DeLong, a spokesperson for the new program, says that premiums accumulated this year will be used to jumpstart the benefit offerings in 2020. "It's a pretty small deduction for the amount of return that you get," she says. "It will be a great benefit starting in 2020 but the funding needs to build up between now and then."

DeLong adds that people earning less money will get a larger proportion of their wages back through paid leave. "The gist of it is that the less you make, the more of your wage you'll get back," she says.

Federal employees, members of federally recognized tribes, workers in collective bargaining agreements enacted prior to Oct. 19, 2017, and self-employed people are exempt from the program.

For eligibility information and to calculate premiums and benefits, visit paidleave.wa.gov.

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About The Author

Josh Kelety

As a staff writer, Josh covers criminal justice issues and Spokane County government. Previously, he worked as a reporter for Seattle Weekly. Josh grew up in Port Townsend and graduated from the University of Washington. Message him through Signal @ (360) 301-3490.