Effective January 1, 2018, employers must follow all the rules and regulations surrounding Washington’s paid sick leave law.
Here's what you need to know about Washington’s Paid Sick Leave Law: What Employers Need to Know:
- Employers operating in Washington need to be sure they are following all of the guidelines and laws when complying with this law.
- With the law’s passage, all Washington employers must now provide sick leave to their qualifying employees, including part-time and seasonal workers.
- Employer PTO programs that combine vacation, sick, and other leaves are deemed to satisfy the new sick leave law, provided they meet or exceed the minimum accrual and pay requirements.
Washington has had a paid sick leave law for several years now. It was initially approved by the state’s voters in 2016 through Initiative 1433. The passage of the law finally made mandatory paid sick leave possible. It also increased the minimum wage and made other positive changes across the state. The minimum wage in Washington is currently set at $15.74 per hour.
The Paid Sick Leave law went into effect and became law on January 1, 2018. It is not the first state to offer this type of protection for employees. Several other states, including Arizona, now have similar mandatory legislation. Employers operating in the state need to be sure they are following all of the guidelines and laws when complying with this law.
Who Qualifies for Paid Sick Leave?
With the law’s passage, all Washington employers must now provide sick leave to their qualifying employees, including part-time and seasonal workers.
When Does Paid Sick Leave Apply?
One of the common questions asked by Washington employers and employees alike is when this type of sick leave can be used. What would qualify as a reason to use this time? Qualifying employees may request paid this 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 has been closed by public officials for health-related reasons.
- Absences as a result of situations 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. A stipulation states employees may only use their accumulated leave in hourly increments. They couldn’t take 15 minutes, half an hour, or 3.5 hours off. The time away needs to be in full hourly increments.
Paid sick leave must be provided to employees at the greater of Washington’s increased minimum wage or at the employee’s standard hourly compensation.
Additionally, paid sick leave must be provided to employees at the greater of Washington’s increased minimum wage or at the employee’s standard hourly compensation. (The local minimum wage rate applies in Seattle, Tacoma, and the City of SeaTac.)
Remember that any minimum wage increases will apply to all Washington employers, regardless of size. This tends to change each year, so employers will want to know the minimum wage to better account for the amount of paid sick time they may need to provide during the year.
Washington Paid Sick Leave went into effect on January 1, 2018. Employees are eligible to use accrued paid sick leave beginning on the 90th calendar day after the commencement of their employment. From the moment they are hired, though, they will begin accruing those hours for their sick time.
How Can Employers Comply?
Employers must follow all the rules and regulations surrounding paid sick leave in Washington. Below are some of the things employers will need to keep in mind.
Employers can front-load their program if they meet the Law’s accrual, use, and carryover requirements.
Employers must provide written or electronic notice to each employee of their entitlement to paid sick leave and how it accrues. Employers must provide this information by the start of a worker’s employment. The Washington State Department of Labor has sample notices available on its website that employers can use. They can be printed out and placed in conspicuous places around the workplace.
Paid Time Off (PTO)
Employer PTO programs that combine vacation, sick, and other leaves are deemed to satisfy the new sick leave law, provided 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 can front-load their program if they meet the Law’s accrual, use, and carryover requirements. Front-loading occurs when the employer provides a fixed number of sick leave hours in advance to employees,
Enforcement/Penalties for Noncompliance
Employees get sick, and they have the right to take time off when they have it accrued. Employers must abide by the law. Employers cannot retaliate or discriminate against employees who exercise their legal sick leave rights.
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. Those employers who do not follow the rule of law or punish employees for using their sick time will face penalties under the law.
Contact our HR Advisor team for further information on these and other regulations and what you can do to further prepare your business.