Q&A about PFML: Answering your questions about Washington's new paid family and medical leave program
In 2020, Washington workers will be eligible for up to 16 weeks of paid family and medical leave. To learn more about the program, visit here. As we get clarifying questions from members, we will occassionally post answers to the blog in addition to responding in the comments. Below is a question and answer from a MomsRising member.
Q. I have some more questions about how paid family and medical leave will work in Washington. How many weeks are available for a normal birth? Is there a waiting period? What are some options for how I might use the various kinds of paid time off I've accrued?
A. A birth parent with a normal delivery can take up to 16 weeks of combined family and medical leave. For most parents, this would look like 6 weeks of medical leave and 10 weeks of family leave. If there are pregnancy complications, a birth parent can take two extra weeks of medical leave.
There is a waiting period of 1 week for PFML benefits. However, this is waived for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child. Workers can use their accrued paid sick leave (which is required under state law for many workers) to cover this period.
Employers cannot require employees to exhaust their paid time off (PTO) before taking PFML. Under current law, you cannot "top off" your PFML with PTO (in that you cannot take both at the same time). This was not the intention of the original bill, but it's how it's being interpreted by the Employment Security Department (ESD) currently. ESD is proposing agency request legislation to fix this in the coming legislative session. Advocates and the business community are in support of this.
Can you use your PTO to extend your leave? It depends. If you have a family member to care for, then you may be entitled to do so under the Family Care Act. Otherwise, employer-provided PTO, beyond the state's sick leave requirements, is the employer's decision. The employer's policies would decide how and when PTO can be used.