Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) Act

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Your Resource for preparing WA PFML.





Your Resource for preparing WA PFML.



Complying with WA PFML

Sun Life is eager to meet your Washington PFML needs for Self-Insured private plan administration. We anticipate quoting for January 1, 2022 effective dates starting in March 2021. Please speak to your Sun Life Sales Representative for more information.

Washington has passed a paid family and medical leave law that will require employers to provide paid family and medical leave (PFML) benefits to employees who work in the state as of January 1, 2020. Premium collection to support these benefits began January 1, 2019. Premium is funded by employee and employer contributions. The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) is the agency responsible for administering the PFML law. Information from the ESD can be accessed here and the state has created a PFML website that can be at www.paidleave.wa.gov.

This site is created for our broker and employer Clients to help them comply with employer responsibilities under the WA PFML law. Please visit this site often for updates as the regulations and ESD polices evolve.

WA PFML Overview

Benefits became effective on January 1, 2021. Here is what you need to know. 

Learn more

Private plan administration


  • January 1 2019 – premium collection began
  • January 1, 2020 – benefits payable

Benefit duration

  • 12 weeks for bonding, care of family member and military exigency
  • 12 weeks for employees own serious health condition.
  • Up to 16 weeks combined max
  • Additional 2 weeks for pregnancy incapacity

Maximum benefit amounts

  • $1,206 for 2021

Frequently Asked Questions

View our complete list of answers to frequently asked questions.

All employers with one or more employees.

A covered employee is eligible when he or she works 820 hours in WA during the qualifying period. This is 820 hours for any employer in Washington. Employees are not required to work 820 hours for their current employer to be eligible.

Once an employee has met the 820-hour threshold, they are eligible to apply for leave even if they are no longer employed.

The benefit amounts for WA PFML are as follows:

  • The benefits are paid at 90% of the employee’s wages, up to 50% of the state’s average weekly wage (SAWW).
  • Any portion of the employee’s wages that exceed 50% of the SAWW will be paid at 50%.
  • The minimum benefit will be $100 or the employee’s average weekly wage if it’s less than $100.
  • The maximum weekly benefit amount is $1,206 for leaves in 2021.

Yes, there is a waiting period of the first seven consecutive calendar days beginning with the Sunday of the first week an eligible employee starts taking PFML.

Medical leave is any leave from work made necessary by the employee’s own serious health condition*.

Family leave is available:

  • to participate in caring for a family member with a serious health condition;
  • to bond with employee’s child during the first 12 months after the birth or to bond with the child within 12 months of the placement of child under 18 years of age; or
  • for a qualifying exigency when the employee’s family member is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty in the Armed Forces

*The definition of serious health condition aligns with that used under the federal FMLA. Namely, a serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition involving inpatient care or continuing treatment.

Covered family members include employee’s spouse or state registered domestic partner, child, parent of the employee, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, a person who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a minor child, a person who is a de facto parent, a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis or a person to whom the employee stood in loco parentis when the person was a minor child.

An employee is eligible to be restored to the employee’s previous or an equivalent job position with equivalent pay, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment if the employee:

  • works for an employer with 50 or more employees;
  • has been employed by the current employer for 12 months or more; and
  • has worked for the current employer for at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding the date on which leave will commence.

Premiums are 0.4% of gross wages paid. Employers may withhold approximately 63% of the premium from employee wages (or employers may elect to pay that portion themselves). Therefore, the maximum an employer may withhold from employee contributions is 0.253% of wages.

An employer that elects to pay all or a portion of its employees’ premiums must give written notice at least one pay period before change in its elected payment.

Premium collection began January 1, 2019, and leave benefits become available beginning January 1, 2020.

Each year, the ESD will post the premium rates for family and medical leave for the following calendar year by November 30.

Yes. Employers may seek approval to meet their obligations of the WA PFML law through a private plan.

Basic requirements of a private plan include the following:

  • It must meet or exceed the benefits of the state plan.
  • It must confer the same or better benefits as those provided in the state plan, including but not limited to, providing at least the same length of leave, amount of paid benefits, and job protection during leave.
  • It may not cost employees or covered contract workers more than they would be charged in the state plan.
  • It must provide for continuation of health insurance benefits for employees during leave.
  • It must permit leave to be taken intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule, with the weekly benefit amount being prorated.
  • It must provide written notice to the covered individual of any adverse determination under the private plan as to the covered individual’s rights under the private plan.
  • It must provide for an appeals process with the private plan administrator before the covered individual can appeal a denial of benefits to the ESD.
  • It must expressly state that all presumptions shall be made in favor of the availability of leave and the payment of benefits.

Sun Life is eager to meet your Washington PFML needs for private plan administration (administrative services only). We anticipate quoting for January 1, 2022 effective dates in March 2021. Please speak to your Sun Life Financial Sales Representative for more information.

Yes. While the WA PFML law creates certain paid benefits for leave because of an employee’s own health condition or for covered caregiving reasons, the WA PFML law is not intended to replace benefits provided by employers through Short Term Disability (STD) plans and programs. It is important to know that cancelling STD benefits could leave your employees unprotected if they become disabled for these reasons:

  1. Benefit amount for higher-income employees. The WA PFML max weekly benefit may be insufficient for high-income earners who require greater income replacement.

  2. Consequences of combined 16 weeks of family and medical leave. If an employee takes 16 weeks of family leave in a 12-month period, the employee may be left without income replacement for their own serious health condition in the same timeframe.

  3. Impact of intermittent leave. WA PFML can be taken intermittently so an employee may substantially reduce and/or exhaust their benefits be left without income replacement protection if they become seriously and continuously disabled thereafter.

  4. Short-term disability may offer additional features and benefits. STD policies may include employee-facing features that improve their experience: first-day hospitalization, survivor benefits, and, most important, return-to-work and vocational rehabilitation programs. Employees can still access these features even if they are approved for both WA PFML and STD.

Sun Life is committed to assisting you in complying with the requirements of the new WA PFML law and with providing valuable employee benefits to your employees. We also offer leave and accommodations administration services. Please reach out to us and we will evaluate your benefit plans and compliance needs from a holistic perspective and provide guidance and services to meet your and your employees’ needs.

  • Questions?

    Please call your Sun Life Client Relationship Executive.

    If you have fewer than 100 employees, please call Client Services at 1-800-247-6875.

    Need more information? We invite you to ask questions and we'll notify you when we publish new information about WA PFML.

Sun Life’s self-funded or administrative-services-only WA PFML solution will be administered by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada (Wellesley Hills, MA). This service is not insurance.

SLPC 30705 03/21 (exp. 03/23)