Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Washington Paid Medical Leave

In line with a growing trend among the states to offer paid leave, Washington has implemented leave programs to provide workers with paid time off for family and medical reasons. Realizing that many employees can't afford to take time off from work, many state lawmakers approved legislation requiring that employers provide paid leave. This leave allows workers to recover from a serious illness, care for a loved one, or take care of a new child.

Washington state residents can take paid leave under these state laws:

  1. Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave Act
  2. Washington Paid Sick Leave Act

In addition to state-mandated leave, two of Washington's cities also have paid leave policies.

Unpaid leave is also available. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is a federal law, allows workers to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Leave under the state program does not diminish the unpaid leave an employee can take under the FMLA.

Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave Act

Washington launched its paid family and medical leave program in 2020. The leave law allows residents 12 to 16 weeks of leave for certain qualifying events.

Washington's Employment Security Department (ESD) administers the program. The agency approves or denies leave requests and makes leave benefits payments.

Employers—whether located in Washington or out of state—with Washington employees must participate in the paid family and medical leave program.

Contributions from large employers and payroll deductions from employees' wages fund the paid leave benefit.

Eligible Employees

You must have worked at least 820 hours for an employer in Washington state during four of the last five calendar quarters. All paid work counts toward the hours.

Federal employees, self-employed people, and employees working in companies located in tribal lands don't automatically qualify for the leave. They have to opt-in to the leave benefit.

Leave Benefits Provided

  • Most workers can take as many as 12 weeks of paid leave in a 12-month period.
  • Some employees can get 16-18 weeks of leave. For example, if you give birth to a child, you will qualify for up to 16 weeks.
  • Workers can get as much as 90% of weekly pay, up to $1427 in 2023.

Paid leave can be taken for:

  • Medical leave – The worker's serious injury or serious illness
  • Family leave – A qualifying family member's serious medical condition, such as a child (biological, adopted, foster child, or stepchild), parent, spouse, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or domestic partner
  • Military leave – A family member is being deployed or returning from deployment
  • Anyone the employee is expected to care for at home
  • Bonding with a new child in the family, including birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child in the home

Coming Back to Work

Your job or an equivalent position will be waiting for you unless the following exceptions apply:

  • Your company employs less than 50 people
  • You worked less than 1,250 hours at the company before taking leave
  • You worked for less than a year in the company

Washington State Paid Sick Leave Law

Washington's paid sick leave program went into effect in 2018. All Washington employers must generally provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours an employee works.

There are exceptions to the paid sick leave requirement. This means that some employees do not qualify. They include:

  • Executive Managers
  • Doctors
  • Lawyers
  • Dentists

Leave can be used for:

  • A mental or physical health condition, including illness and injury
  • The mental or physical health condition of a family member
  • If your workplace or your child's school or childcare provider is closed for a health-related reason by a public official
  • Domestic violence

Two of Washington's cities, Tacoma and Seattle, also require that employers provide paid leave benefits.

Seattle has had paid sick and safe leave since 2012. Seattle employers must provide paid sick leave if they have at least one Seattle employee. The amount of required leave varies depending on the employer's size. Small employers must provide up to 40 hours of leave, medium-size employers must provide up to 56 hours, and large employers must provide up to 72 hours.

Leave can be used for the worker's serious injury or illness or a family member's serious injury or illness. The leave benefit can also be used during a public health emergency and for work absences related to sexual or domestic violence and stalking.

Tacoma employees within the city limits who work 80 hours or more qualify for paid sick leave. Workers earn one hour for every 40 hours worked within the city. The paid leave can be used for an employee's own serious health condition or that of a family member, domestic violence, and public health emergencies.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Get Legal Help To Discuss Your Options

Knowing that you have job protection and will get paid during your leave can be reassuring. But to protect your rights, you need to follow certain procedures. Not sure what steps you need to follow? An attorney can provide legal advice. Reach out to a Washington employment law attorney today.

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified employment attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options