Washington State Family Leave Insurance: An Update for Employers of Washington State Employees and Actions to Take

Washington State Family Leave Insurance (FLI) went into effect in 2019, and, beginning January 1, 2020, employees who meet coverage requirements and experience a qualifying event – such as maternity, serious illness or injury, or caring for a family member – are now eligible for FLI benefits.

Actions that employers must take

  1. Set your company policy around topping-off wages. Since FLI only covers a portion of employee wages, some employers choose to pay the difference between the FLI benefit and an employee’s normal wages, topping-off the employee’s pay while they are on leave. This is an optional benefit that some organizations choose to offer, and it can be done in a variety of ways, such as by using time-off balances (vacation, PTO, or sick time). Deciding if and how your company will top-off wages and then codifying that decision in your employee handbook is an important step in responding to this new state-provided benefit.
  2. Let your employees know that FLI is available to them and how to use it. The law states that employers must:
    1. Inform employees about the program by posting a notice in an area customarily used for other employment-related notices.
    2. Notify employees when they may qualify for FLI. Washington State created a notice that employers are required to send to employees within five business days of becoming aware than an employee is taking more than seven consecutive days off to care for a family member or for their own serious health condition.

The Washington State Employment Security Department has resources to help employees understand how paid leave works and how to apply for benefits. They also offer a calculator that allows employees to estimate their weekly pay under Washington State Family Leave Insurance.

How we can help

Without accurate, automated leave of absence management, employers are at risk of noncompliance with leave regulations and can be subject to fines or class action lawsuits. Granting leave requests to ineligible employees or extending leave benefits beyond the accrued time period can drive up labor costs. And administering FLI and other leave requests, tracking leave eligibility, and reporting on granted time off can be time-consuming and error-prone, resulting in inconsistent policy enforcement.

PayNorthwest’s leave management solution, an important component of our human capital management (HCM) offering, provides HR professionals and benefit administrators comprehensive tools to manage and track paid and unpaid federal, state and employer-specific leave policies. Our leave management solution is configurable to match the requirements under Washington State Family Leave Insurance as well as FMLA and other company leave policies – reducing errors and controlling costs while providing consistency and fairness across your organization.

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