There are changes for Washington Employees regarding Paid Family and Medical Leave and a reminder on the timeline with the WA Cares Fund.
Family Member Definition
The definition of ‘Family Member’ has permanently expanded. Previously, family members included the following:
- Spouses and domestic partners
- Children (biological, adopted, foster, stepchild, legal guardian, de facto, or loco parentis)
- Parents and legal guardians (or spouse’s parents)
- Grandparents (or spouse’s grandparents)
- Son-in-law and daughter-in-law
Employees can now qualify for family leave if they are caring for someone ‘who has an expectation to rely on them for care—whether they live together or not’.
Previously, to qualify for Paid Family and Medical Leave a person was required to work a total of 820 hours in 4 of the last 5 quarters. However, this look-back criteria may have been affected by working fewer hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A temporary change adds new qualifying periods to determine eligibility. We can now look at more quarters in a worker’s employment history to see if they qualify. The new law applies to leave that starts January 2021 through March 2022, or until funds run out. If a person was denied earlier this year, they may now reapply.
For more information on these changes, download the Employer Toolkit from the Washington Employment Security Department.
WA Cares Fund
If you have not told your employees about the WA Cares Fund, now is the time. Beginning January 1st, 2022, Washington residents will fund the program via a payroll tax of .58% of gross wages and commissions. This tax is permanent and applies to all Washington residents, even if the employer is located outside of the state.
Under current law, employees have one opportunity to opt-out of this tax by having a long-term care (LTC) insurance policy meeting at least the minimum standards of the WA Cares Fund in place by November 1st, 2021.
Options for individual LTC insurance in Washington have become extremely limited. Those LTC insurance providers who did offer policies are inundated with requests, and they are no longer taking applications. Because the new state law does not currently require individuals to keep their insurance coverage after these LTC providers have opted out of the tax, many carriers believe there will be a high number of contracts canceled. The cost of underwriting and placing the contracts is significantly more than the annual premiums collected the first year.
Currently, in Washington, 10 companies are licensed to sell stand-alone long-term care policies and another 22 companies are approved to sell long-term care “riders” on life insurance policies, according to the Office of Insurance Commissioner. But now most, if not all, of those companies have suspended sales in Washington.
If a person chooses to get life insurance with an LTC rider sufficient to apply for the exemption, in many instances, getting a life insurance policy requires full underwriting. A physical may be required for underwriting. With nursing shortages, this may take some time and many insurance companies cannot guarantee the policy will be in place by the exemption deadline of November 1, 2021.
Companies must inform their employees now so they can be prepared for the tax or have the ability to opt-out.
*This information simplifies complex Acts as it is understood by Time Equipment Company. It is not to be taken as legal advice. The regulations for this program are changing. For further information contact the Washington Department of Labor and Industries or the WA Cares Fund.