About one year ago, a new benefit was made available to most people who work in the State of Washington: Washington Paid Family & Medical Leave (WA PFML). Depending on the type of leave you need, 12-18 weeks of paid leave may be available. Employees can file claims for their own medical conditions, care for a family member or military family leave. It is not just a paid maternity leave program, but I can attest it works great for that!
The State of Washington has put together a helpful site to provide information on the situations and individuals who qualify for leave and how to apply here: https://paidleave.wa.gov/. Also, tucked away in the site is a concise document called the Benefit Guide, that I found to be most helpful. Let me just say, the resources have come a long way since I filed.
Once you’ve determined you’re eligible for WA PFML, you need to decide if or how you should use it! There are many factors to consider. Below are some starting questions to ask yourself.
- How many days of leave will be needed?
Do you only need a few days of leave? If so, you the waiting week might be all you need to take which means you wouldn’t get any pay.
- Do you want to use your Paid Time Off (PTO)?
The amount of benefit you receive is based on your income, but there is a limit. You can receive up to 90% of your weekly pay up to a maximum of $1,206/week. Therefore, if your wages are significantly higher and you have leave time to use, you may decide not to file with the state.
- Do you want to save your PTO?
Employers cannot require that you use your PTO either before or after using WA PFML. If you would prefer to maintain a balance of your leave time for when you return to work, you have that option.
- Do you have a Short-Term Disability Policy?
Find out whether your short-term disability policy will pro-rate your benefit based on your income from WA PFML. This is a good opportunity to see if your short-term disability coverage is redundant.
- Does using WA PFML protect your health benefits and employment?
Before you decide to take an extended leave, be sure to understand what protections are in place for you. Ask your employer if they will continue your health insurance coverage and whether you are required to self-pay any premiums. Also find out what policies, if any, are in place for your job protection.
- Will the benefit be taxable? WA PFML has decided they will issue a 1099-G to individuals receiving benefits. In the Benefit Guide they note; “However, how you as an individual report this income for tax purposes is up to you and your tax professional, and we cannot provide you with any tax advice or additional guidance.” Check with your tax preparer for specific recommendations.
Washington is one of only a small handful of states with a mandated paid family leave program. Think of it as an additional tool in your toolbox when certain planned or unplanned events come up in your life that require you to be away from work. We’d love to talk with you about how this program may benefit you and your financial picture.