July 8, 2019
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Washington new Paid Family & Medical Leave act hits milestone

Last Monday marked a milestone in the run-up to Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits becoming available statewide in January 2020. The new system launched for employer reporting and payments in time for 2019 quarters one and two reporting to begin on July 1.

“The successful launch of our employer reporting platform marks an important milestone for Washington state, our businesses, and for our workers,” shared Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine. “It provides the essential technology building block that we need so Washingtonians can start using Paid Family and Medical Leave in January of 2020. When finally available, our Paid Family Medical Leave system is designed to benefit all workers and businesses in Washington.”

Paid Family and Medical Leave was created through a bipartisan effort in the state Legislature in 2017. This statewide insurance program will allow workers in Washington paid leave to care for themselves or a family member through serious illness or injury, parental leave to bond with a new child coming into the home, and for military families for certain service-connected events. Workers are typically allowed up to 12 weeks of leave per year, with between 16 and 18 weeks in some special circumstances.

Employers began collecting premiums for the program on Jan. 1, 2019 and have from July 1 to August 31 to complete their 2019 quarter one and quarter two reports and payments. As this is a new program and technology system, Employment Security extended the deadline for reporting from July 31 to August 31. The department is encouraging employers to begin the account creation process as early as possible to ensure they have enough time to set up their account, file and pay for both quarters before the August 31 deadline.

Resources for employers can be found at paidleave.wa.gov/reporting:

  • How-to report videos
  • Reporting instructions
  • Before you report checklist
  • Frequently Asked Questions

“Washington is leading the way on providing an essential program to increase support and economic security for working families, the middle class and businesses throughout our state,” LeVine said.

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Unintended Consequences

State's proposed overtime rule change goes too far, too fast

By AWB President Kris Johnson

If it's approved, any employer with salaried workers making less than that amount will be faced with the difficult decision to either raise their employees' salary to nearly $80,000 or convert the worker to hourly status. For employers who can't afford to give out big raises, they may have little or no choice but to switch employees to hourly status.

In theory, this could lead to increased pay for some workers, but that's only if their employer can afford to pay overtime. Small businesses, nonprofits and other employers that can't absorb the cost increase will likely cut services.

Even for workers who don't take a step backward financially, the change could feel like a demotion. Increasingly, employees value flexibility in work hours, particularly younger workers. Making the transition from a salaried job -- with the flexibility to duck out for a couple hours in the middle of the day to take care of family obligation -- to an hourly worker who is required to be in the office a full eight hours, without the option of working from home, will be jarring.

No one is disputing that Washington's overtime rule needs updating. But the state's proposal simply goes too far, too fast and risks harming the employees it's intended to help.

Read the full column in The Wenatchee Valley Business World