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Washington Increases PFML Rates and Weekly Benefit for 2022

Effective January 1, 2022, the premium rate for Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) will increase to .6% (up from .4% in 2021) of each employee’s gross wages, not including tips, up to the Social Security cap of $147,000.

The PFML benefit amount is based on the employee’s income. The maximum PFML weekly benefit will also increase to $1,327 for leaves beginning in 2022 (up from $1,206 in 2021).

Who Pays For PFML Premiums?

PFML is funded by premiums paid by employees and employers. The 2022 premium will be divided between the employer and the employee as follows:

  • Employer premium (mandatory for businesses with 50+ employees working in the State of Washington): Employers will pay 26.78% of the .6% premium; and
  • Employee premium (mandatory for all employees): Employees will pay 73.22% of the .6% premium. Employers are required to either withhold this amount from each employee’s paycheck or pay it on their employees’ behalf. Employers then submit this portion of the premium to the state along with their quarterly reports.

Are Employers Required to Make Contributions?

Business with 50 or more employees must pay the employer share of the premium. If an employer has fewer than 50 employees, the employer premium is optional.

Employers that are not required to contribute to premiums but chooses to pay the employer share of the premium can receive additional benefits for their business.

All employers may either withhold employees’ premiums from their paychecks or pay some or all of the premium on their employees’ behalf. Employers cannot collect missed premiums in later pay periods.

Which Employees Are Eligible For PFML?

Employees who have worked at least 820 hours in the last four completed calendar quarters are eligible for PFML. The 820 hours can be at one job or combined from multiple jobs, so employees working for another company at the same time can count the hours from both jobs towards their PFML eligibility.

When Can PFML Be Used?

PFML gives employees a way to take paid time off to care for themselves or a family member. Employees are eligible for between 12 to 18 weeks of PFML annually to:

  • Care and bond after a baby’s birth or placement of a child younger than 18
  • Care for a family member (or an individual who has an expectation to rely on the employee for care) experiencing an illness or medical event
  • Certain military connected events
  • Care for themselves in relation to an illness or medical event.

How Much Leave Are Employees Entitled To?

Employees can take up to 12 weeks of medical or family leave under the PFML program, and up to 16 weeks if they have more than one qualifying event in the same claim year. Employees who experience a condition in pregnancy that results in incapacity like bed rest or having a C-section can take up to 18 weeks of combined PFML.

Leave may be taken consecutively or intermittently. However, employees must take at least eight hours off in a row.

What Are the Employee’s Responsibilities?

Employees apply for PFML directly with the state when they have a qualifying event. The state will notify employees as to whether their claim has been approved or denied.

Employees also have to notify their employer at least 30 days prior to taking leave, if possible. The notice should be provided in writing and include how long the employee is expecting to be out. The written notice may be provided as an email, text message or handwritten note. Employees who have an unforeseen circumstance that results in them not being able to give 30 days’ notice must do so as soon as possible.

What Are the Employer’s Responsibilities?

  • Employers are responsible for notifying employees of the PFML program by posting a notice or sending the notice to employees.
  • Employers are responsible for collecting employee premium as outlined above.
  • Every quarter all employers must complete and file a report and pay the PFML premiums.

Beginning January 1, 2022, employers will collect WA Cares premiums from employees the same as for Paid Leave. The WA Employment Security Department is updating the Paid Leave reporting system so employers can report for both programs at the same time.

Can Employers Provide Supplemental Benefits?

Yes. Employers can provide additional benefits, also called “supplemental benefits,” to their employees on top of PFML benefits. For example, employers can offer employees additional time off to bond with a new baby, additional pay to replace wages lost while they are on leave, or job protection for people whose jobs are not automatically protected under the law.

Next Steps for Employers

Employers are encouraged to review the detailed PFML guidance available on the Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave Website. Employers should work with their payroll providers to ensure that the required contribution amounts are deducted from the employee’s pay. Employers should also update their PFML policy and any related materials to reflect this change. Employers should also ensure that all human resource personnel and managers/supervisors who have responsibilities for addressing leave request have been trained on PFML.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.