Paid Family Leave Laws

Great news! There are two family leave laws that workers in Washington can take advantage of:

  • Federal Family & Medical Leave (FMLA)
  • WA Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML)

In general, FMLA and PFML run concurrently (at the same time) if your leave is covered by both laws. 

Federal Family & Medical Leave (FMLA)

FMLA provides leave to care for a:

  • Child (who is under the age of 18 or incapable of self-care due to a physical or mental disability)
  • Spouse
  • Parent (including a biological, adoptive, foster, or step-parent, or any other person who stood "in loco parentis” but not including a parent-in-law)

FMLA eligibility includes:

  • All public employers and private employers who employ 50 or more workers within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite. 
  • ​​Employees must have worked for a covered employer for at least one year and have worked for that employer for at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months. 

FMLA provisions:

Up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for the following reasons:

  • For incapacity due to pregnancy, prenatal medical care, or childbirth
  • To care for the employee’s child after birth, or placement for adoption or foster care
  • To care for the employee’s spouse, son or daughter, or parent, who has a serious health condition
  • For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform their job
  • For certain needs in connection with a loved one's military deployment
  • If medically necessary, employees caring for a seriously ill loved one may be able to take this time in smaller chunks, spread out over time, rather than all at once.

FMLA Protections:

  • Job and Seniority: Upon return from FMLA leave, nearly all employees must be restored to their original or equivalent positions with equivalent pay, benefits, and other employment terms. Rare exceptions to this rule are explained here
  • Benefits: During FMLA leave, the employer must maintain the employee’s health coverage and continue paying any share of their health insurance premium under any “group health plan” on the same terms as if the employee had continued to work.
  • FMLA rights: An employer can’t punish an employee in any way for using their FMLA rights and can’t interfere with the employees ability to use their rights under the law.

How to apply for FMLA:

  • Notify your employer of your need for leave. You'll need to get your loved one's health care provider to certify their health condition and need for care. Your employer will then provide you with notices and forms to fill out and return to them. 
  • If you know in advance when your leave will start, tell your employer at least 30 days before that date. If you can’t do so or don’t know in advance, tell your employer as soon as possible.

Detailed information about Federal FMLA, visit the US Department of Labor website

But first, check out Washington’s paid leave program below.

WA Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML)

The state of Washington expands on the Federal FMLA law with:

  • A broader definition of “family member”
  • Eligibility for more residents 
  • Paid leave

Washington provides PFML to care for a:

  • Child (biological, adopted, foster, or stepchild)
  • Spouse or domestic partner
  • Parent, legal guardian, or spouse’s parent
  • Sibling
  • Grandparent or spouse’s grandparent
  • Grandchild 
  • Son-in-law or daughter-in-law
  • Someone who has an expectation to rely on you for care—whether you live together or not. 

You may need to provide documentation about your relationship to the person or certification of their medical need.

WA PFML eligibility includes:

  • Nearly every worker who has worked a minimum of 820 hours (about 16 hours a week) in Washington during the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters. If that doesn’t add up to the required 820 hours, the employee can use the last four completed calendar quarters immediately preceding their application for leave.
  • Full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal work count, even if the employee works multiple jobs or switches employers.
  • Certain workers are not automatically eligible:some text
    • Federal employees
    • Employees of a tribally-owned business on tribal land
    • Self-employed people who do not opt into the state program
  • Self-employed workers who opt into the state program can receive paid time off when they have a serious health condition that prevents them from working, or need time to care for a family member or new child. Self-employed workers are described as:some text
    • A sole proprietor
    • A joint venturer or a member of a partnership
    • A member of a limited liability company (LLC)
    • An independent contractor, as described in RCW 50A.05.010 (8) (b) (iii)
    • Otherwise in business for themselves

WA PFML provisions:

  • Up to 12 weeks of medical leave or family leave
  • Up to 16 weeks of combined medical and family leave if the employee has more than one qualifying event in the same claim year
  • Up to 18 weeks of combined medical and family leave if the employee experiences a condition with pregnancy that results in incapacity, like being put on bed rest or having a C-section

WA PFML Benefit Amount

Employees can receive up to 90% of their weekly pay, on a sliding scale based on their income, up to a maximum of $1,456 in 2024. You can estimate the PFML benefit amount you may be eligible to receive on the WA PFML Benefits Calculator.

WA PFML Protections:

The employer is required to keep the employee’s job for them if all of the following are true:

  • The employee works for a company that employs at least 50 people
  • The employee has worked for the company for at least a year
  • The employee has worked at least 1,250 hours (about 24 hours a week) for the company in the year before they took leave

How to apply for Paid Family & Medical Leave in Washington:

Washington’s PFML website walks you through the application process step-by-step. Scroll to the bottom of the landing page and click “Start here.”

For the most current details about WA PFML visit the Washington's Paid Leave website.

Note: The state, county, or city where you live may also offer short term (a few days per year) paid sick leave or paid time off that you may be able to use for caregiving. You can find short term leave information for jurisdictions in the state of Washington here.

​​Separately, the state of Washington provides rights to unpaid time off that are limited to pregnancy, recovery from childbirth, or parenting. You can find out more about these rights here. We include this information because one in four Americans is a member of “The Sandwich Generation”—adults who are providing care to aging loved ones while raising children. 

The information on this page should not be considered legal advice. Other protections may apply in your specific situation.

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