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Washington Amends PFML Law

On June 9, 2022, the Washington Employment Security Department (WESD) amended the “waiting period” for certain employees who successfully apply to the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) Program in addition to, providing clarification on use of leave during the post-natal period, and adding bereavement, in certain circumstances, as an acceptable reason for leave. The amendments took effect immediately upon signing.

Waiting Period

The amendments make clear that the seven-day waiting period before benefits are made available will not reduce the PFML benefits available to employees. In addition, the waiting period no longer applies to medical leave taken for the birth of a child. Of note, employees who take leave for qualifying military events or to bond with a new child are already exempted from a waiting period.

Post-Natal Period

The amendments clarify that leave taken during the first six weeks after birth (the postnatal period) is presumed to be medical leave. Employees eligible for benefits based on incapacity due to pregnancy or for postnatal care will be presumed to be using paid medical leave benefits unless the employee chooses to use paid family leave benefits during that period. In addition, the amendments modify the medical certification requirements so that employees using paid medical leave during the postnatal period do not need to provide certification of a serious health condition.

Bereavement

Employees may now use paid family leave during the seven calendar days after the death of a child for whom the employee would have qualified for medical leave for the birth of the child or would have qualified for family leave to bond with the child following their birth or placement.

Next Steps for Employers

Employers should review and update their PFML policies to ensure compliance with the law’s requirements, including adding bereavement leave as an additional category of eligibility for benefits under the Program.

For additional information on PFML, employers are encouraged to visit the WESD’s website, which provides an online employer toolkit.

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