In addition to increasing Washington’s minimum wage starting January 1, 2017 (see 2016 Election Aftermath – Minimum wage to increase in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington), the passage of Initiative 1433 also brings paid sick leave to Washington employers.
Starting January 1, 2018, all Washington employers will be required to start providing employees with paid sick leave. With the passage of Initiative 1433, Washington joins Oregon, California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut as states that provide paid sick leave to employees. (Washington DC and numerous cities in the US also require employers to provide paid sick leave benefits).
Who is covered by the Washington Paid Sick Leave Law?
All Washington employers will be required to provide employees with paid sick leave.
How much paid sick leave must be provided?
Starting January 1, 2018, employees of Washington employers will start accruing paid sick leave. Paid sick leave benefits will accrue at a rate of 1 hour for every 40 hours worked by the employee. For new employees, accrual begins on the first day of employment.
The new law does not create a yearly accrual cap or a yearly usage cap for paid sick leave. However, Washington employers may choose to “frontload” an employee’s sick leave entitlement (in other words provide the employee with the estimated annual accrual of paid sick leave at the start of the year/start of employment).
When are employees eligible to use paid sick leave?
The new sick leave law imposes a 90-calendar day waiting period before a newly hired employee can use paid sick leave benefits. This means that for employees who have been employed by the employer for more than 90 days as of January 1, 2018, those employees will be eligible to use their paid sick leave benefits as those benefits are accrued.
What can paid sick leave be used for?
Under the new law, an employee will be able to use his/her paid sick leave benefits for the following purposes:
- an employee’s illness, injury, or health condition, including diagnosis, treatment, care, and preventive care;
- to care for a family member’s illness, injury, or health condition, including diagnosis, treatment, care, and preventive care;
- when an employee’s place of business or an employee’s child’s school or place of care is closed by a public health official for any health-related reason; or,
- for employee absences for qualified leave under the domestic violence leave act.
Who is considered a “family member” under the paid sick leave statute?
Under the Washington paid sick leave law, a family member is defined as the employee’s:
- Child, including a biological, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, or a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis, is a legal guardian, or is a de facto parent, regardless of age or dependency status;
- Biological, adoptive, de facto, or foster parent, stepparent, or legal guardian of an employee or the employee’s spouse or registered domestic partner, or a person who stood in loco parentis when the employee was a minor child;
- Registered domestic partner;
- Grandchild; or
Are employers permitted to cap sick leave accrual?
No, the paid sick leave statute does not provide for caps on paid sick leave accrual. Employees must accrue 1 hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked.
Are employers permitted to cap sick leave usage?
No, the paid sick leave statute does not provide a cap on the amount of paid sick leave an employee can use in a year. In other words, employees must be allowed to use as much sick leave as they are able to accrue each year.
Does unused, accrued paid sick leave carryover into the next year?
Yes, employers are required to carryover at least 40 hours of unused, accrued paid sick leave at year-end.
What are the employee’s notice requirements before using paid sick leave?
An employer may require employees to give reasonable notice of an absence from work, so long as such notice does not interfere with an employee’s lawful use of paid sick leave. In addition, for absences exceeding three days, an employer may require verification that an employee’s use of paid sick leave is for an authorized purpose. If an employer requires verification, verification must be provided to the employer within a reasonable time period during or after the leave.
Are employers required to payout unused, accrued paid sick leave at termination of employment?
No, employers are not required to pay out accrued, unused paid sick leave at termination of employment.
However, if the employee is rehired within 12 months of his/her termination, then the employer must reinstate all of the employee’s accrued, unused paid sick leave.
If an employer chooses to pay out accrued, unused paid sick leave upon termination, the employer does not have to reinstate any leave upon reinstatement.
What should Washington employers do to prepare for the new law?
Washington’s new Paid Sick Leave Law goes into effect on January 1, 2018. In order to prepare for this new law, employers should prepare paid sick leave policies and plan to include those policies in their 2018 Employee Handbook. In addition, employers with existing sick leave or PTO policies should check their policies to verify that they are compliant with this new law. We will keep you posted about this law as it draws closer to the effective date.
NOTE: Several municipalities in Washington have separate sick leave requirements. Check your city/county to confirm the sick leave requirements in your area.