Delay to Employer Reporting of Contributions
The Washington Employment Security Department (WA ESD) has announced that employer reporting has been extended until August 31, 2019. Originally, the first and second quarter reports were due by July 31, 2019 but these deadlines have been extended due to the new reporting system they have in place.
For those unfamiliar with the requirements:
Washington Paid Family Leave (WA PFL) applies to all private and most public sector employers in Washington. Employers with fewer than 50 employees will not need to pay the employer portion of premiums, while employers with 50 or more employees will have to pay a portion of the premium for the program. Employers with up to 150 employees may also apply for grants to offset wage costs while an employee is on leave.
Employers may request a waiver of the premium requirement for employees who are:
- Physically based outside of Washington
- Employed in Washington on a limited or temporary work schedule
- Not expected to work in Washington for at least 820 hours during a “qualifying period”
- A qualifying period is the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters or, if eligibility is not yet established, the last four completed quarters immediately before the employee applies for leave
Covered employees include all employees working in Washington except for those working for the federal government. This includes out of state employers with employees in Washington. An employee is eligible if he/she has worked at least 820 hours during a “qualifying period,” as defined above. These hours may be earned at more than one employer.
Employees may apply for various amounts of leave depending on the need:
- 12 weeks of family or medical leave
- To care for a family member with a serious health condition
- Due to a serious condition of an employee
- Due to birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child
- Due to a qualifying military emergency
- When an employee learns their military spouse is called to active duty
In certain circumstances, employees may be eligible for up to 18 weeks of leave:
- 14 weeks of family or medical leave due to a pregnancy-related serious health condition that leaves an employee incapacitated
- 16 weeks of combined family and medical leave
- 18 weeks of combined family and medical leave if the employee experiences a pregnancy-related serious health condition that results in incapacity
WA PFL requires employees to be restored to the same or equivalent position of employment, except in the case of:
- A salary employee who is among the highest paid 10% of employees under certain circumstances
- An employee working for a small employer with less than 50 employees
- If they have not been employed for at least 12 months by the employer and have not worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12-month period (identical to FMLA requirements)
There is a 7-day waiting period for benefits, except in the case of birth or placement of a child, which has no waiting period. The benefit will vary depending on whether an employee earns more or less than the state’s average weekly wage. The benefit can be up to 90% of an employee’s weekly wage with a minimum of $100 per week and a maximum of $1,000 per week.1
WA PFL is paid through premium payments made by both employees and employers and is administered by the WA ESD. The premiums are split into two parts:
- Employees pay the family leave premium
- Employers and employees split the payment for medical leave; employers pay 55% and employees pay 45%
A total premium of 0.4% up to the social security cap is assessed on the employee’s gross wages. An employer is generally responsible for about 37% of that premium. You can calculate premium estimates using the WA PFL premium calculator.
January 1, 2019: Premium collection for Washington employees begins
August 31, 2019: Employer reporting for Q1 and Q2 of 2019 is due2
October 31, 2019: Employer reporting for Q3 is due
January 1, 2020: Employee can start applying for benefits through WA PFL
January 31, 2020: Employer reporting for Q4 is due
Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will run concurrently with WA PFL. However, while FMLA allows employers to require the use of accrued paid time off while on FMLA, WA PFL does not allow employers to require employees in Washington to use accrued paid time off during PFL if the FMLA leave is also WA PFL.
If employers have not yet started collecting premium contributions, they can start now with no additional penalty, however, they cannot collect back premiums. Instead, the employer would have to pay the full premium amount for any back premiums but could begin collecting employee premiums immediately. Employers should check with their payroll vendor to confirm if deductions began for their Washington employees or not.
There will be a mandatory poster requirement to notify employees of the benefits prior to January 1, 2020, that has not yet been released. In the interim, WA ESD has provided an optional paystub insert that employers may use to notify employees of the benefit.
Please contact your Assurance representative with any questions.