The vision? Washingtonians can take the time to care for themselves and the people they love.
And the mission? To provide an easily accessible benefit that helps employers and employees maintain economic stability and peace of mind in challenging times.
With this, Washington is set to become the fifth state in the nation to offer paid family and medical leave to workers. Although benefits won’t start until January of 2020, the premiums to fund the program are assessed beginning January of 2019.
For general information on the program and the benefits to employees, see our previous blog post Covered by Washington State’s Paid Family Leave Law? Learn the Basics.
Which Employers Must Participate
Virtually all employers with at least one employee located in Washington are required to participate in the program, including for-profit companies (both public and private) and not-for-profit organizations.
The only exceptions are federal employees and certain employees with collective bargaining agreements. Federally recognized tribes and the self-employed may opt into the program but are not required to participate.
There is no exception for small businesses.
Employer Reporting Requirements
As an employer, you’ll be subject to quarterly reporting requirements with Washington’s Employment Security Department. The first report is due April 30, 2019, for January, February and March of 2019.
The report includes information about your business, such as your UBI number and the total amount of premiums you collected from your employees.
It also includes information about each employee, such as name, Social Security number and hours worked and wages paid during the quarter.
Employer Premium-Collection Requirements
Employers are required to collect premiums for wages paid beginning as of January 1, 2019.
For 2019, the premium amount is 0.4 percent of gross wages (excluding tips). However there is a limit on the amount of wages subject to the premium. It is the same as the limit for wages subject to Social Security, or $132,900 for 2019.
Of this amount, employees pay 63.333 percent (withheld from wages) and employers 36.667 percent. Employers can choose to pay some or all of the employee-portion of the premium. The calculations vary slightly for voluntary plans.
Larger employers with 50 or more employees will be assessed both the employee and employer portions of the premium. Smaller employers with fewer than 50 employee will be assessed only the employee portion of the premium.
It’s important to note that employers must withhold the employee’s portion (if any) with every paycheck as it is not permitted to withhold any missed premiums in subsequent pay periods. Instead, you (as employer) must pay the amount of the missed premiums.
There is an online calculator available to help estimate your premiums.
Financial Assistance for Small Businesses and Organizations
Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to the employer-portion of the premium.
Employers with 150 or fewer employees are eligible for small business assistance grants. These grants are provided on an employee-on-leave basis for up to $3,000. Employers can apply for a maximum of 10 grants per year.
Size is calculated by the Employment Security Department as of September 30 each year, based on average headcount for the previous four quarters.
Employer Notification Requirements
As a legal matter, employers must notify their employees of their rights by posting a notice where they post other employment-related notices.
The Washington Employment Security Department has published a detailed Employer Toolkit: Prepare to be There for Care. Washington’s New Paid Family & Medical Leave Program.
The toolkit provides sample text for an announcement in an employee blog or newsletter, or an email. It also includes sample materials for your employee handbook and a sample paystub insert with an option to download the text in a variety of languages.
For more information on employer responsibilities, see the Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave website page devoted to employers.
Want to discuss how paid family and medical leave legislation impacts you or your business?