November 13, 2018
Washington paid family and medical leave is coming (PFML). Although leaves and benefits aren’t available until January 1, 2020, employers have decisions to make before employer and employee premium contributions start in January 2019.
You can read our prior blog posts for a summary of this up-coming law and significant developments at this link or enter “Washington” in the blog’s search box.
Employer Action Items. Time is ticking, and as a Washington employer you have things to do! At Matrix we are working with our clients and business partners to help them get ready for Washington PFML. Below is a list of key action items that all Washington employers, even those with a single employee, must address soon (and there will be more in 2019!):
- Decide whether to use the state program or a voluntary plan. Unless and until you have an approved voluntary
plan, you and your employees will be covered by the state program.
- If you decide upon a voluntary plan:
- Develop the plan and file for approval with state – allow 30 days for approval.
- Make employer choices that are available with a voluntary plan, such as whether to use the accelerated
payment option and whether to offer greater benefits (duration, amount, leave reasons, covered
relationships) than required by state.
- Determine whether you will deduct from employee wages or pay the employee premiums yourself (for state plan)
or bear all costs by the company (for voluntary plan). If you choose to deduct employee premiums from paychecks:
- Communicate with your payroll service about employee deductions.
- Communicate to employees about deductions starting 1/1/2019 (we recommend including a brief overview
of benefits coming 1/1/2020).
- For a voluntary plan, set up a separate bank account to hold premiums deducted from employee wages.
- For the state program, be ready to pay employee and employer premiums to the state quarterly, starting
- Post notices in your workplaces by the date required (to be announced by the state; we expect a state-issued
form notice for employers’ use).
- By 1/1/2020, review and revise existing STD policies/plans and other company leave policies to coordinate with
the required Washington PFML benefits and ensure no duplication of benefits.
Matrix Resources. Matrix has developed a variety of resources to assist employers in preparing for Washington PFML, making the necessary choices, and developing a compliant voluntary plan:
- Webinar on Washington PFML generally (recording available)
- Webinar on voluntary plans specifically (recording available)
- Washington PFML Comparison – State Program vs. Voluntary Plan
- Washington PFML – State Program or Voluntary Plan? Employer Considerations
- Sample voluntary plan
We can help you make the decision – state or voluntary – and file and administer your voluntary plan if that is your election. If you would like to receive any of these resources or discuss your options, the process, and more, contact your Matrix account manager or practice leader, or send your questions to us at [email protected]. We are constantly updating and adding to our materials, so stay in touch!
Washington Resources. The Washington Employment Security Department (EDS) administers the PFML program. Its website has many resources for employers and employees. One of the latest additions is the Employer’s Toolkit, which provides an overview of the PFML program, employer responsibilities, premium calculations, and sample communications to employees about PFML, including a handbook insert, an email or blog notice to employees, and a paystub insert. Another helpful resource is the Voluntary Plan Guide which provides an overview of voluntary plan requirements.
The state is drafting and implementing rules that provide details on the PFML program, benefits, voluntary plans, the claims process, and more. The rules are divided by topic into 6 phases. All draft and final rules can be accessed on the ESD’s Rulemaking Page. Here is the status so far:
- Phase 1: Finalized and in effect. Topics:
- Phase 2: Finalized on November 2 and will go into effect December 3, 2019. Topics:
- Phase 3: Second draft released October 25, 2018. We previously reported in the first draft of Phase Three
rules here. Although there is some welcome clean-up of the language and a couple of helpful additions,
the content of the second draft of Phase Three rules is largely the same as the initial draft. Topics:
- Definitions (in addition to those contained in the PFML statute itself)
- Employee notice to employer
- Initial application for benefits
- Phase 4: Scheduled release of first draft November 14. Topics:
- Continuation of Benefits
- Phase 5: Drafting to start in 2019. Topics:
- Job Protection
- Benefit Overpayments
- Phase 6: Drafting to start in 2019. Topic:
Keep watching this blog. We will provide updates as rules are drafted and finalized.
Matrix can help! Washington paid family and medical leave imposes many new employer obligations and challenges. We can help you through the morass. Call on your account manager or practice leader, or contact us at [email protected].