On July 5, 2017 Washington became the latest state to enact some form of paid family and medical leave. The new law goes into effect in January 2020 and will provide employees with up to twelve (12) weeks per year of paid family leave for the following purposes:
• The employee’s own serious health condition;
• Care of a family member with a serious health condition;
• Care of a child new to the family following birth, adoption or placement in foster care; or
• For qualifying exigencies due to a family member’s deployment to active duty in the US Armed Forces.
The definition of family includes an employee’s spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent or grandchild. There are many aspects of the law which distinguish it from traditional unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) including the fact that employees become eligible after 820 hours of work with an employer (as contrasted with 1250 under FMLA). In addition, if an employee has a need for both medical and family care leave during the same 52-week period, he or she may be granted leave up to sixteen (16) weeks or even eighteen (18) weeks for pregnancy related medical complications.
The benefit, which may be up to 90% percent of the employee’s average weekly wage capped at $1000 per week, will be paid for by contributions from both employers and employees with opt outs for businesses with fewer than fifty workers.
New York enacted similar legislation which goes into effect in 2018 with benefit periods starting at eight (8) weeks and increasing to twelve (12) for family leave and up to twenty-six (26) weeks for the employee’s own disability. These states join California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia which have already put this benefit in place. However, businesses with employees in these states should carefully review the different laws which vary greatly in terms of eligibility, duration and amount of benefit and funding source. This chart prepared by the National Partnership for Women and Families provides an excellent summary of current law.
The legislature continues to study the issue and its feasibility for New Hampshire as HB 628 is pending and has been retained by the House. It is expected to be brought forward for consideration early next year.