Paid Family & Medical Leave vs. Paid Sick Leave

What’s the difference?

Paid Family Medical vs Paid Sick Leave
It is important to note that paid family and medical leave and paid sick leave have two different sets of requirements. Both requirements include strictly-enforced measures that prevent employers from retaliating against employees in any way for the exercise of either or both rights.

Paid Family & Medical Leave

In 2019, employers in Washington will begin paying premiums for paid family and medical leave. Starting Jan. 1, 2020, employees will be able to apply for Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits. Benefits will be available for most employees who work at least 820 hours in the qualifying period.

Paid Family and Medical Leave will be a state-run insurance program that is funded by both employers and employees. Eligible employees are assured up to 12 weeks of leave as needed, with partial wage replacement. In certain exceptional cases 16-18 weeks may be taken.

The amount of this benefit varies depending on the employee’s weekly wage, median statewide incomes, and other factors. 

Using Paid Family and Medical Leave

Employees may use paid family and medical leave benefits for:

  • Bonding after the birth or placement of a child who is under the age of 18.
  • The employee’s or a family member’s serious health condition.
  • Certain military connected events, including leave for short-notice deployments, urgent childcare related to military service and post-deployment activities.


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Paid Sick Leave

As of Jan. 1, 2018, employers in Washington must provide nearly all of their employees with paid sick leave.

Paid sick leave is an employee right, and does not require the payment of premiums by either the employer or the employee. Under the law, employees must accrue paid sick leave at a minimum rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked. This includes part-time and seasonal workers.

Employees are entitled to use paid sick leave beginning on the 90th calendar day after the start of employment. Employees using paid sick leave must be compensated at their normal hourly compensation by their employer for each hour of paid sick leave used.

Using Paid Sick Leave

Employees may use paid sick leave:

  • To care for their health needs or the health needs of their family members.
  • When the employee’s workplace or their child’s school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official for any health-related reason.
  • For absences that qualify for leave under the state’s Domestic Violence Leave Act.


Go to: or contact the L&I Employment Standards Program: 1-866-219-7321 or

When to take Paid Sick Leave, and
when to take Paid Family & Medical Leave.

Paid_Family_Medical-vs-Paid_Sick-SCENARIOIt is important to note the eligibility period does not go by a calendar year, but rather by 52 weeks from the time the first paid family or medical leave claim is filed.

Mrs. A has a baby on Jan. 2, 2020
She takes 12 weeks of paid family leave to recover from childbirth and bond with her child (files claim through the Employment Security Department).

Mrs. A’s husband begins his paternity leave on Jan. 2, 2020
He takes 12 weeks of paid family leave to help Ms. A in her recovery and to bond with their baby (files his own claim through the Employment Security Department).

Mrs. A’s baby gets sick on June 15, 2020
She takes two days of paid sick leave to take her baby to the doctor and care for her child (for more information, visit the Department of Labor & Industries website).

Mrs. A trips over a toy in her living room and breaks her ankle on Oct. 5, 2020, forcing her to get surgery.
Although she took her 12 weeks of family leave earlier that year, she can still take two weeks of paid medical leave to recuperate from her ankle surgery (files claim through the Employment Security Department).

Mrs. A’s father is called up on a short notice deployment on Jan. 30, 2021
Because she began her previous 12 weeks of family leave (for the birth of her baby) longer than 52 weeks before, and has since worked the qualifying 820 hours, she takes three days of paid family leave to spend time with her father before he deploys (files claim through the Employment Security Department).

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