Several Washington state parental leave laws offer income replacement benefits and job protections to new mothers and fathers who meet the eligibility rules for each regulation.

Because of the different qualifying criteria for each law, the answer to how much do I get, and how long does it last will vary for each person.

Four different laws and or programs might impact the size of benefit checks that come in during or after the time you take off from work.

Two regulations address the length of time you can be absent from work and still have a job and health insurance once you return.

Washington State Income Benefits

Beginning in January 2020, most parents in Washington State can now take advantage of partial income replacement benefits during paternity and maternity leave.

However, the dollar amount and percent of previous earnings each person receives can vary widely. Plus, other programs and rulings may come into play and affect benefits based on additional criteria.

Personal Loan

Request a personal loan to fill gaps in your paid family leave benefit. As you will see below, the maximum amount per person is $1,000 weekly. Therefore, moms or dads earning more than $52,000 each year will face a sizable cut in pay.

If approved, a lender licensed in Washington State may deposit the funds directly into your checking account. The borrowed funding can help make financial ends meet while mom and dad take time away from work. Enjoy the time bonding with your baby while you can.

Do not borrow money unless you are confident that you will return to work and that your employer will hold your position open – see job protections below. You must repay the lender in monthly installments. A loan is not a grant.

Paid Family Leave

The Washington State Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFL) program is the primary form of income replacement for most new parents, beginning in January 2020. The local government requires employers to withhold premiums from employer paychecks.

Therefore, most actively working parents have this coverage.

  • Mothers on maternity leave for pregnancy issues, childbirth, or to bond with a new infant, adopted or foster child
  • Fathers on paternity leave to care for his pregnant spouse experiencing complications, to bond with a newborn, adopted, or foster child
  • Self-employed individuals whose opted into the voluntary program

Applying

Go to the Washington State government website when applying for paid family leave benefits. The online portal will walk you through the steps needed to file a claim.

  1. Alert your employer
  2. Get certified by a healthcare provider
  3. Gather other documents
  4. Start the application here

Calculator

The same Washington State government website also provides a handy online paid family leave calculator to help you estimate the amount of money you will receive and how long the claim payments might last.

  • Amount of possible claim checks
    • Up to 90% of income
      • Low earners get the highest percentage
      • High earners get a smaller percentage
    • Maximum of $1,000 per week
  • Duration (in weeks) after satisfying an elimination period (1)
    • 12: bond with a new baby or child
    • 16: give birth to a newborn infant
    • 18: experience complications of pregnancy

Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability and can sometimes augment and extend Washington State PFL benefits for new parents. The two programs often overlap but have profound differences in three main areas.

  • Coverage: mothers must choose to enroll in short-term disability before conception to qualify for maternity leave benefits, whereas PFL is government-mandated.
  • Eligibility: fathers cannot use short-term disability during paternity leave because dads do not have a qualifying medical condition, whereas PFL includes baby bonding and care of a sick family member.
  • Amount: individuals choose the monthly amount for a short-term disability policy during enrollment, whereas the government determines the size of claim payments using a complex formula.

Unemployment

Collecting unemployment after your parental leave ends can extend your income benefits if you had to quit your job for a good-cause reason. Washington State laws include these two scenarios.[1]

  • You became sick or disabled: pregnancy complications or postpartum disorders
  • A member of your family became ill, disabled: spouse requiring bed rest, or your infant had significant medical issues or delivered prematurely

Keep in mind that filing a claim for unemployment compensation will pay off only after you are physically able and available for work and actively seeking a new job.

Family Care Act

The Washington State Family Care Act (FCA) allows workers to use paid time off benefits during selected parental leave scenarios. New mothers and fathers can exercise their FCA rights for two reasons.[2]

  • Care for a child with a health condition that requires treatment or supervision
  • Care for a spouse who has a serious or emergency health condition
  • Not available for an employee’s medical condition

FCA resources that you can use include accumulated paid sick leave, vacation time, holidays, paid time off (PTO), and specific short-term disability plans (Employment Retirement Income Security Act and purchased insurance excluded).

Washington State Job Protections

Washington State has two parental leave laws that address job protections and continued access to healthcare benefits. Being able to return to work is a crucial legal advantage – which many people do not have.

However, the number of weeks each person might be able to take off from work could be zero, twelve, or more depending on the qualifying reason, and eligibility under FMLA.

Pregnancy Disability Leave

The Washington State Law against Discrimination (LAD) extends job and health insurance protections to mothers taking pregnancy disability leave.[3] The LAD states that it is an unfair practice for an employer to take these actions because of pregnancy or childbirth:

  • Refuse to hire or promote, terminate, or demote, a woman
  • Impose different terms and conditions of employment on a woman

The LAD also states, “An employer shall provide a woman a leave of absence for the period that she is sick or temporarily disabled because of pregnancy or childbirth.” Also, employers must treat a woman on pregnancy disability leave the same as other employees.

  • Paid time off
  • Physician statements
  • Retention and accrual seniority, retirement, and pension rights
  • Extension of vacation and time off without pay

Consult an attorney for help estimating the length of time a pregnancy disability leave might last. The LAD language includes an apparent contradiction that only a workplace lawyer can interpret. On the one hand, it appears a woman has an indefinite amount of time. On the other hand, employers must treat her the same as other employees.

FMLA

The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the chief law impacting job rights for Washington State parents. WA does not have a regulation to expand the number of people covered or extend the duration. However, it does make the time off paid rather than unpaid (see above).

Only about half of the individuals in the Evergreen state enjoy these legal rights.

  • Take job-protected time off without interference, restraint, or retaliation
  • Have group health insurance maintained under the same terms and conditions
  • Restored to the same or an equivalent position after the 12 weeks

Qualifications

You must qualify under FMLA to enjoy the twelve weeks of parental leave rights. You must work for a covered employer and be an eligible employee. [4]

Eligible Employees

  • Worked for the employer for at least 12 months
  • Logged at least 1,250 hours of service in the last 12 months
  • Works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius

Covered Employers

  • Private-sector employer, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks
  • Public agency regardless of the number of people it employs
  • Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of people it employs

Forms

The FMLA forms that you need to complete are not unique to Washington State because it is a federal law that applies to people throughout the country.

The US Department of Labor publishes and hosts a variety of applicable FMLA documents, which you can easily download, print, fill out, sign, and then submit to your employer.

  • WH-380-E: Certification of Health Care Provider for Employee’s Serious Health Condition
  • WH-380-F: Certification of Health Care Provider for Family Member’s Serious Health Condition

[1] WA Employment Security Department

[2] WA Department of Labor & Industries

[3] WAC 162-30-020

[4] US Department of Labor