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Washington PFML Update: Bereavement Leave for Death of a Newborn, Expiration of PFML CBA Exemption, and More



Among other changes to the Washington Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) program contained in SB 5649, effective June 9, 2022, when a newborn or newly adopted/fostered child dies, employees who would have qualified for either medical or family leave for birth or adoption/placement of that child are entitled to PFML leave for the seven (7) calendar days immediately following the child’s death. This leave time is categorized as Family Leave.

SB 5649 also provides that when an employee is using both Medical Leave and Family Leave for the birth of and bonding with a child (generally a maximum of 16 weeks combined), the first six (6) weeks of the leave (the “postnatal” period) will be designated as Medical Leave unless the employee chooses to use Family Leave instead. Practically speaking, this is not likely to have much impact on employers, though in individual circumstances it could affect what leave is subsequently available to an employee.

Another change affecting some employers: Currently, PFML includes an exemption from both premiums and benefits for employees covered by collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) that were in existence on October 19, 2017, and which have not since been reopened for negotiation. That exemption now expires on December 31, 2023. Any employers still relying on that exemption will need to take steps to prepare for that change, including possibly needing to negotiate with the union regarding implementation of PFML for the covered workers.

Have a voluntary plan for compliance with PFML? The Employment Security Department is now required to publish on its website a current list of all employers that have approved voluntary plans for compliance with PFML.

Finally, SB 5649 implements various steps designed to help protect the solvency of the PFML fund, which has been of some concern recently, including regarding the impact of the COVID-19 situation on the fund.

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