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Changes to Employment Laws - What Washington's Nonprofits Need to Know

Posted Nov 13, 2017 09:55 AM
Starting on January 1, 2018, employees working for Washington State nonprofits will have improved benefits because of legislative changes requiring employers to offer paid sick leave, as well as increases to the minimum wage over several years. There are also changes coming in 2020 to expand access to Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML).

These changes have significant implications for nonprofits:

  • Paid Sick Leave: Starting on Jan. 1, 2018, all Washington employers will be required to provide their employees paid sick leave. Most employees must accrue one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked.
  • Minimum Wage Increase: Starting on Jan. 1, 2018, the minimum wage will be raised to $11.50 per hour, a $0.50 increase from before. It goes up to $12.00 on Jan. 1, 2019 and $13.50 on Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave: Beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, this law 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) face a serious health condition. Employees who experience a combination of both can receive up to 16 weeks of support. People who face complications from pregnancy can qualify for an additional two weeks of protected paid leave. Payroll deductions will begin on Jan. 1, 2019 with benefits being available the following year.

Watch this webinar presented by Nancy Kasmar that describes these changes in further detail.

Please read further about these significant changes, who exactly is eligible, and what steps your organization needs to take to comply.

Paid Sick Leave

Starting Jan 1, 2018 employees must accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. This includes part-time and seasonal employees. Employees will be compensated at their normal hourly wage, with these benefits being available beginning on the 90th calendar day after they started their employment.

Unused paid sick leave of 40 hours or less must be carried over into the following year. Employers are allowed to offer more generous benefits if they so choose.

This new rule applies to all nonprofits, regardless of size. Please note that local sick and safety laws take precedence over state ones:

  • Seattle: Employers are already compliant with these regulations.
  • Spokane: Local laws are now replaced by the new state law.
  • Tacoma: The only major change is the removal of the accrual cap.

This fact sheet created by the WA State Department of L&I summarizes the key points you should know. This larger document provides more detail. Also check out Vigilant’s frequently asked questions about this new law.

National Law Review has created a helpful table outlining who is affected and how.

Register as soon as possible for one of the webinars hosted by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries that will go over what employers need to know about these new regulations.

Minimum Wage Increase

Do you have any employees who are making less than $11.50? If yes, then start planning now. Make a list of who they are and calculate by how much you need to increase your pay budget for 2018. Look at this sample table:

2017 Per Employee Cost to Comply

Current Hourly Pay$11.00$11.25$11.50
Weekly Hours 40 40 40
Annualized Pay $22,880 $23,400 $23,920
Annualized Pay at $11,50 per hour $23,920 $23,920 $23,920
Impact on 2018 Salary Budget $1,040 $520 $0

Please note that these changes have nothing to do with job performance, duties, or tenure.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Washington has a new paid family and medical leave insurance program, funded by the premiums paid by employers and employees and administered by the Employment Security Department (ESD). We are the fifth state in the nation to provide this benefit to workers.

You have more time to adjust for this new statewide law, since payroll deductions don't begin until Jan. 1, 2019 and with benefits being available on Jan. 1, 2020.

The new law provides eligible workers up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave (PFML) benefits annually for:

  • Bonding after the birth or placement of a child who is under the age of 18;
  • A family member's serious health condition; or
  • Certain military assignments like leave for short notice deployment, military events, urgent childcare and related activities, and post-deployment activities.

Employees may also receive up to 12 weeks of paid medical leave benefits annually for their own serious health conditions, as defined in the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and its regulations.

If workers experience both scenarios in a given year, they may receive up to 16 weeks of combined benefits or up to 18 weeks if the employee experiences a serious health condition with a pregnancy that results in incapacity.

Eligibility requirements: Employees are eligible for PFML after working for at least 820 hours during the qualifying period.

You can learn more about the premiums and benefits on the Washington Employment Security Department's website.

Communicating These Changes to Your Staff

Even before you begin to plan for these changes, be as transparent as possible with your staff and alert them to these new laws and how they might affect them directly.

Also, you’ll need to make amendments to your employee handbook. We can help you craft the language, or you can refer to these sample policies and notification letters to help you update the handbook yourself.