News & Updates

Washington Paid Sick Leave – Are You Ready?

A phone call from a client reminded me that not everyone is ready for the new Washington Paid Sick Leave Law that went into effect 1/1/2018. 

Here is a recap of the highlights, along with links to important notices that you will need in order to be in compliance with this law.  Current employees must be notified of your policy in writing no later than March 1, 2018, and new employees must be notified immediately upon employment.  

The law generally applies to all employers in Washington State.  Employers in three local jurisdictions (Seattle, Spokane & Tacoma) include additional provisions.

Paid Sick Leave Policy
Employers should consider creating a paid sick leave policy to develop consistent workplace practices and communicate the new requirements to employees.  An employer must create a paid sick leave policy if it chooses to require reasonable notice for the use of paid sick leave or request verification for absences exceeding three days.

An employer must also develop a written policy when it implements a shared leave program for its employees, frontloads paid sick leave to employees (i.e., provides employees access to paid sick leave before it has accrued), chooses a different accrual year (other than January 1 through December 31), or creates a paid time off (PTO) program for its employees. A collective-bargaining agreement can also satisfy the requirement for a written policy for any of these practices.  Additionally, employers with employees who work in cities that have a minimum wage and paid sick leave ordinance (Seattle, Tacoma, and the City of SeaTac) will need to apply the standards of such ordinances that are more favorable to employees.

Accrual and Leave Availability

Employees accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. For employees already employed on or before January 1, 2018, paid sick leave will accrue for all hours worked beginning on January 1, 2018. Employees hired after January 1, 2018, will begin accruing paid sick leave as soon as they begin working.

The default accrual year is January 1 –  December 31; however, an employer may adopt a different fixed consecutive 12-month period (fiscal year, benefit year, work anniversary, or any other consecutive 12-month period).

Frontloading

Employers may provide paid sick leave in advance of accrual provided that such front-loading meets or exceeds the requirements for accrual, use, and carryover of paid sick leave.

Purposes and Use

An employee is authorized to use paid sick leave for the following purposes:

  • An absence resulting from an employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; to accommodate the employee’s need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or an employee’s need for preventive medical care.
  • To allow the employee to provide care for a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; care for a family member who needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or care for a family member who needs preventive medical care. Covered family members include, among other relationships, the employee’s children (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), parents, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings.
  • When the employee’s place of business has been closed by order of a public official for any health-related reason, or when an employee’s child’s school or place of care has been closed for such a reason.
  • For absences that qualify for leave under the Washington Domestic Violence Leave Act.

An employee is entitled to use accrued paid sick leave beginning on the 90th calendar day after beginning employment. Employers may provide more generous paid sick leave policies or permit the use of paid sick leave for additional purposes. However, employers may not require, as a condition of an employee taking paid sick leave, that the employee search for or find a replacement worker to cover the hours during which the employee is on paid sick leave.

Required Notice by Employers

Employers must provide a one-time notification to each employee of their rights to paid sick leave.

This notification must include:

  • The employee’s entitlement to paid sick leave;
  • The rate at which the employee will accrue paid sick leave;
  • The authorized purposes under which paid sick leave may be used; and
  • That retaliation by the employer for the employee’s lawful use of paid sick leave and other rights provided under the Minimum Wage Act (Wash. Rev. Code § 49.46), and all applicable rules, is prohibited.
  • Employers must provide such notification in written or electronic form, and must make this information readily available to all employees.

Employers must provide this notification to employees by the dates below:

   Employee Status    Notification Deadline
   NEW:  Hired on or after January 1, 2018    No later than the commencement of employment
   EXISTING:  Already working for the employer
    before January 1, 2018
   No later than March 1, 2018

The Department of Labor and Industries has created a notification for employers.  Click here to download.  

You can access the complete summary of the Washington Paid Sick Leave Law (Initiative 1433) here including the additional provisions for Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma.

Note: The City of SeaTac, Washington also passed an ordinance requiring certain transportation and hospitality employers in the city to provide nonsupervisory employees working within the city limits with paid sick and safe leave. According to the ordinance, each hospitality or transportation employer must pay every covered worker paid leave for sick and safe time out of the employer’s general assets. Covered workers accrue at least one hour of paid sick and safe time for every 40 hours worked as an employee of a hospitality employer or transportation employer, and are entitled to use any accrued hours of compensated time as soon as those hours have accrued.