Employment Law Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law and HR

Aug 17, 2018

Phase 1 of Washington State Paid Family Leave rules released

Leave Laws 

The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) is in the process of rulemaking for Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (WPFML). As we previously reported, WPFML provides leave benefits starting in 2020, with tax assessments on employees and employers beginning January 1, 2019.

Phase 1 Complete

ESD has divided rulemaking into six phases. Phase 1, which addresses voluntary plans, collective bargaining agreements, and premium liability, has been released. The final Phase 1 rules, along with a cost-benefit analysis and response to public comments, are available on ESD’s rulemaking site.

Important Changes

One change to note in the final rules is the removal of an annual September 30 timeline for submitting requests for approval of voluntary plans (e.g., short or long-term disability plans). Under the final Phase 1 rule, approved plans would start the quarter after approval, which seemingly allows submission at any time during the year. According to ESD’s Phase 1 Implementation Plan, ESD will be accepting voluntary plan submissions beginning in August 2018.

Draft of Phase 2 Rules Released

The second draft of the Phase 2 rules has been released. Phase 2 covers employer responsibilities, penalties, and small business assistance. Phase 2 is important to employers because it details notice, posting, and reporting requirements, as well as audits and penalties. Formal rulemaking hearings will occur on October 24 and 29, 2018 (details TBD).

Phase 3 Has Begun

ESD held a listening session on August 9, 2018, to hear ideas on benefit applications and benefit eligibility. The agency expects to post a first draft of rules on these subjects by September 12, 2018, and to officially publish proposed rules by January 3, 2019. Formal rulemaking hearings are scheduled for March 13 and March 18, 2019.

Phases 4-6 Will Begin in 2019

ESD expects to begin the final phases of the WPFML rulemaking in 2019. This includes Phase Four (regarding continuation of benefits and fraud), Phase Five (regarding job protection, benefit overpayments, and miscellaneous provisions), and Phase Six (regarding appeals).

Tips for Employers

In order to prepare for the changes, take the time to do the following:

  • If you haven’t already done so, take some time to read our previous blog post for an overview of the new law.
  • Review the draft rules available on ESD’s rulemaking site and add your voice to the chorus of groups giving ESD feedback.
  • Next, work with your broker and/or disability plan carrier to determine if you want to use a voluntary plan instead of the state system. To do so, your plan must be approved by ESD as meeting or exceeding state minimum requirements, and you must continue quarterly reporting to the state.
  • Vigilant will host a webinar on the law, final rules, and how to merge this program with your current leave practices once ESD has released all or a majority of the final rules in 2019. Be on the lookout for our webinar invitation.

As these new rules take shape, contact us to learn more about how we can help you comply with the new law.

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