January 1, 2020, the date your employees will be able to apply for Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (WPFML) benefits, is right around the corner. Here’s an update on where things stand and a reminder about our resources:
Rulemaking: The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) has completed its rulemaking (click the “INFO” tab for a list of all the rules by phase), and we expect the legislature’s website to be updated with all of the new rules (Washington Administrative Codes) soon. While the rules are technically final, ESD will likely engage in additional rulemaking or seek legislative changes in the future, so please continue to keep an eye on our newsletter for any changes.
Benefits continuation and WPFML: The newly released final rules remove any mention of continuation of benefits, so we are now left only with the statute, which says that benefits must be continued while an employee is on WPFML if they are also taking leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This was one of the only substantive changes in the final rules. ESD’s initial proposal on this issue appeared to require benefits continuation when the employee simply met the FMLA eligibility criteria, not when they were actually using FMLA. Unfortunately, even though ESD has dropped its proposal, the statute itself (RCW 50A.35.020) is ambiguous and could potentially require the continuation of benefits during the entire period of WPFML even if only part of the leave is covered by FMLA. Also, ESD has said it is giving the issue of benefits continuation further consideration and may issue new rules addressing it at a later date. Talk with your Vigilant employment attorney before denying continuation of benefits during WPFML, if part (but not all) of the WPFML runs at the same time as FMLA leave.
ESD-required poster and notification: ESD just released the mandatory poster, which you must post by January 1, 2020. ESD also released the notice of WPFML rights which you must give to employees within 5 business days after you learn they need leave for a qualifying reason, or after the employee has been absent for more than 7 consecutive scheduled days (whichever is later). More resources are available on ESD's WPFML website.
Webinar recording, handout, and FAQs: Be sure to take the time to watch our WPFML Webinar and review the associated handout. These provide great information and in-depth discussions on key issues to get you started with WPFML. Once you've digested the webinar and handout, take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), which address the many questions we received before, during, and after the webinar. (Note: The information above regarding benefits continuation now replaces the answer to FAQ 35.)
Changes to your policies and forms: As you start working on necessary updates to your policies and forms, be sure to begin with our Model Policy, Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave, which recently received a few minor updates. Once you've completed your draft, call your Vigilant employment attorney for a compliance review.
Tips: Be sure to reach out to your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney for assistance as you move through this process.