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How the Washington Family Leave Act Affects Nonprofits

Posted Jul 19, 2017 11:55 AM
In early July, the legislature passed the Washington Family Leave Act (FLA), which provides eligible workers up to 12 weeks of paid protected leave for the birth or adoption of a child or for leave when the employee or a family member (including registered domestic partners) faces a serious health condition.

Employees experiencing a combination of both can receive 16 weeks of support. Women experiencing complications from pregnancy qualify for an additional two weeks of protected paid leave.

There are some eligibility requirements. The employee has to have been employed at least 12 months with the employer. The employee also must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period before taking their leave.

The relationship between this new Washington law and the federal Family Medical Leave Act is quite complicated. In most cases, the FLA will run concurrently with the FMLA. However, a pregnant employee may receive 12 weeks of paid leave under FLA and still be covered by FMLA for an additional twelve weeks.

The new law applies to nonprofits, although religious nonprofits are exempt from existing pregnancy leave laws. Advocates for paid leave, like the Washington Work and Family Coalition, have been working towards the passage of this law for ten years. Advocates point out that:
  • A quarter of all poverty episodes occur because of having a baby
  • Most countries offer paid leave to new mothers
  • Paid family leave has been shown to reduce infant mortality by as much as 20 percent (and the U.S. ranks a low 37th of all countries in infant mortality rate)
You will want to consider how this new law affects your organization and the benefits you currently provide to your employees. While benefits will not be paid out under this law until January 2020, organizations will need to plan for the additional costs of the program when premiums begin being collected in January 2019.

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer share of premiums, but they may choose to do so in order to be eligible for the small business assistance funds included in the law.

Companies with fewer than 150 employees that are paying into the system may apply to receive $3,000 to cover the costs of training replacement workers, or up to $1,000 for other costs such as training or overtime pay for an employee covering work when someone is on leave. Companies that temporarily hire replacement workers will not be charged higher unemployment insurance rates if that temporary worker applies for unemployment.

Both employers and employees will pay into the system starting on January 1, 2019 with 63 percent paid by employees and 37 percent paid by employers. Each paycheck will have 0.4 percent deducted from it. For workplaces with less than 50 employees, employers are not required to contribute but employees will still have to. According to the Washington Work and Family Coalition, a minimum-wage worker with a full-time job will contribute $1.36 weekly, and the employer will pay $0.80. An employee making $85,000 annually will pay $4.12 per week, and their employer will pay $2.42.

You can monitor additional information about this new law at the Department of Labor and Industries’ webpage about the Washington State Family Leave Act.