Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Jan 02, 2018

Final rules released for Washington paid sick leave

Leave Laws 

Washington Paid Sick Leave: What To Know

Effective January 1st, 2018, Washington state employers are now required to provide mandatory paid sick leave to all employees. The Department of Labor and Industries released the final rules addressing Initiative 1433, which mandates 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, with no cap on accrual or usage, and annual carryover of at least 40 hours. The Department of Labor and Industries released a sick leave FAQ, clarifying many of the new sick leave requirements. This addresses many of the outstanding questions about the Washington Paid Sick Leave [WPSL] rules that were common among employers.

Washington Paid Sick Leave Rules

Paid Time Off Policies [PTO]

A Paid Time Off [PTO] policy is allowed under WPSL as long as it meets or exceeds all detailed requirements of the law, including reasonable notice, increments of use, and carryover requirements. 

Employers who offer more PTO hours than required by the WPSL can choose to designate a portion of PTO for paid sick leave sue but must track the accrual and usage of the sick leave portion separately in order to apply different procedures to the non-sick leave portion of the PTO. For example, if you want to require more than 10 days’ notice of vacation or use of leave in larger increments of time, you have to track accrual and usage of the sick leave portion of separately from all other leave.

Verification of Absences 

Employers are allowed to require verification of absences when the employee has been absent on more than three consecutive required work days, regardless if it is for part or all of each day. Employers aren’t allowed to rquire verification of shorter absences, even when abuse of leave is suspected.
However, employers ar allowed to require medical verification of absences under other circumstances if permitted or reuqired to do so under other federal, state, or local laws, such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Cash Out

Employers aren’t required to cash out any paid sick leave and are allowed to cash it out only under two circumstances:

  1. Upon separation from employment with a mutual written agreement
  2. At the end of the leave year if the employee has more than 40 hours of accrued unused leave, however, 40 hours must be carried over to the next year so those hours cannot be cashed out.


Paid sick leave is mandatory for all Washington-based employees who are non-exempt (i.e. covered by minimum wage and overtime laws). The WPSL also requires each employer to have a written sick leave policy, which must include specified details about the employer’s plan and procedures, and provide various written notifications to employees. To be in compliance, use our model policy, “Washington Paid Sick Leave Model Policy” as a starting point or as your own. See additional resources below.


Tips and Resources for Employers

WPSL Webinar and FAQs

Vigilant presented a webinar on Washington Paid Sick Leave on September 21, 2017. Be sure to listen to the webinar recording and view the webinar handout if you haven’t already done so. We’ve now updated the webinar FAQs to reflect the final rules.

Model Policy

We have updated the following Model Policies

and the following Legal Guides:

Work With Your Employment Attorney to Ensure Compliance

If you aren’t already working with your Vigilant employment attorney on complying with Washington paid sick leave, we encourage you to make contact as soon as possible.

Not a member, but still looking for help with Washington paid sick leave? Check out our unlimited flat-fee employment law advice and contact us to see how we can help you.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.