Washington DC

Paid Family Leave Laws

Great news! There are several family leave laws that workers in the District of Columbia can take advantage of:

  • Federal Family & Medical Leave (FMLA)
  • DC Family & Medical Leave (DC FMLA)
  • DC Paid Family Leave (DC PFL)

If you’re covered, the federal FMLA and DC FMLA give you the right to time off and protect your job, but do not provide pay. 

DC PFL gives you cash benefits to help cover lost wages while you are on leave, but doesn’t protect your job. 

Generally, if you qualify for both, leave under FMLA and DC FMLA runs concurrently (at the same time). When taken at the same time, FMLA or DC FMLA leave can protect your job while DC PFL provides you with cash benefits. 

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 how Washington DC expands on this coverage below.

DC FMLA expands on the Federal FMLA law with:

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

DC FMLA provides leave to care for:

  • Anyone who is related to the employee by blood, custody, or marriage
  • A foster child
  • A child who lives with the employee and for whom the employee has permanently assumed parental responsibility
  • Someone who has lived with the employee in the last year and who shares a committed relationship with the employee

DC FMLA eligibility includes:

  • Employees who work for private sector employers with at least 20 employees or employees of the District of Columbia
  • Employees must have:some text
    • Been employed
service, which doesn’t need to immediately precede the request for leave. 
    • Worked
hours during
requested leave. 

DC FMLA provisions:

  • Up to 16 weeks of unpaid family leave in a 24-month period: some text
    • For the birth or adoption of a child or
    • To care for a family member with a serious medical condition
  • Up to 16 weeks of unpaid medical leave in a 24-month period for the employee’s own serious medical condition.
  • Leave may be taken in blocks of time, intermittently (if medically necessary), and in certain circumstances, at a reduced schedule. 
  • Employees may also be able to use any accrued paid time off instead of unpaid leave.

DC FMLA protections:

  • Job and seniority: The employer is required to reinstate the employee to the same or an equivalent position, subject to a very narrow exception.
  • Benefits: The employer must maintain an employee’s health coverage under any “group health plan” on the same terms as if the employee had continued to work.
  • DC FMLA rights: The employer can’t punish the employee in any way for using their DC FMLA rights or interfere with their ability to do so. 

How to apply for DC FMLA:

  • The employer may require medical certification and reasonable prior notice when applicable. 
  • The employer will then provide you with notices and forms to fill out and return to them. 


DC PFL expands on the Federal FMLA law with:

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

DC provides PFL to care for a:

  • Child
  • Parent
  • Spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Grandparent
  • Sibling 

This includes biological, foster, and step-family members, as well as some in-laws.

DC PFL eligibility includes:

  • Nearly all private sector employers in the District are covered
  • Eligible employees must:some text
    • Spend more than 50% of their time working in DC—including teleworking or telecommuting
    • Have been employed by a covered employed during the last year
    • Be employed when they apply for the benefit. 
    • Note: If they have been employed by covered employers for less than one year, they may receive a prorated benefit.
  • Self-employed workers who work at least 50% of the time in the District can opt in to coverage 

DC PFL provisions:

  • 2 weeks to care for your pregnancy
  • 12 weeks to: some text
    • Bond with a new child
    • Care for a family member with a serious health condition
    • Care for your own serious health condition

DC PFL Benefit Amount

Employees receive benefits on a sliding scale based on their average weekly wage as follows:

  • 90% of the portion of their income that’s less than 150% of 40 times the minimum wage plus
  • 50% of the portion of their income that’s more than 150% of 40 times the minimum wage

The current maximum weekly benefit amount is $1,118. You can estimate the PFL benefit amount you may be eligible to receive on the DC PFL Benefits Calculator.

DC PFL protections:

  • DC PFL does not offer job protection. However, job protection is provided through other laws such as the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the DC FMLA when you take PFL. 

How to apply for PFL in Washington DC:

  • Tell your employer that you’ll be applying for PFL benefits. Notice generally must be in writing. If you know in advance that you will be taking leave, you must provide notice at least 10 days in advance. If that’s not possible or you don’t know in advance, provide notice as soon as possible.
  • Click here to learn how to apply and to submit your application for PFL. 
  • If you’re unable to apply online, contact (202) 899-3700.
  • Apply as soon as possible, but no more than 30 days after the start of your qualifying leave event.

Visit the DC Paid Family Leave website for the most current details about Washington D.C. family leave policies. 

Note: Some states, counties, or cities 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 information on short term leave in Washington DC here.

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

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