Washington’s Paid Sick Leave Law: What Employers Need to Know

Paid Sick Leave

In the fall of 2016, Washington voters approved Initiative 1433, which resulted in a mandatory paid sick leave law and minimum wage increase, among other changes. While the state minimum wage is set to increase over the next few years, Washington employers are required to comply with the Paid Sick Leave law as of January 1, 2018. Washington is part of a growing number of states, including Arizona, to enact statewide mandatory sick leave legislation. Read on to find out how to comply with the new law.

Who qualifies?

The law applies to every Washington employer and must be offered to qualifying employees, including part-time and seasonal workers.

When does paid sick leave apply?

Qualifying employees may request paid sick leave in the following circumstances:

  • To care for themselves, or a family member in the event of mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, and to accommodate their need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment.
  • When the employee’s workplace, their children's school, or place of care, have been closed by public officials for health-related reasons.
  • Any absences that would qualify for leave under the Washington State Domestic Violence Leave Act.


Most employees will accrue paid sick leave at a minimum rate of 1 hour of paid sick leave, for every 40 hours worked, and may use their accrued leave in hourly increments. Additionally, paid sick leave must be provided to employees at the greater of Washington's increased minimum wage (in Seattle, Tacoma, and the City of SeaTac, the local minimum wage rate applies) or at the employee's normal hourly compensation.
Minimum Wage increases in the State of Washington will be phased in as follows:

  • $11.00 in 2017
  • $11.50 in 2018
  • $12.00 in 2019
  • $13.50 in 2020

These minimum wage increases will apply to all Washington employers, regardless of size.


Washington Paid Sick Leave goes into effect on January 1, 2018. Employees will be able to use accrued paid sick leave beginning on the 90th calendar day after the commencement of their employment.

How can employers comply?


Employers must provide written or electronic notice to each employee of their entitlement to paid sick leave, and the rate of accrual, by March 1, 2018. For employees hired on or after January 1, 2018, employers must provide such notice by the start of their employment. The Washington State Department of Labor will make sample notices available on their website.

Paid Time Off (PTO)

Employer PTO programs that combine vacation, sick, and other leaves will be deemed to satisfy the new sick leave law if they meet or exceed the minimum accrual and pay requirements.


Employees must be allowed to carry over at least 40 hours of accrued paid sick leave to the following year.


Employers have the option to front-load, providing a fixed number of sick leave hours in advance to employees, provided they meet the Law’s accrual, use, and carryover requirements.

Enforcement/Penalties for Noncompliance:

Employers may not retaliate or discriminate against employees for exercising their sick leave rights under the law. The Washington State Department of Labor will carry out and enforce the sick leave provisions, including providing notice guidance on its website in the future.
Further information on the law is available here, along with a factsheet for employers.
Contact our HR Advisor team for further information on these and other regulations, and what you can do to further prepare your business.  

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