Employees have new rights, and employers have significant new responsibilities under Washington's Paid Sick Leave law, which was passed by voters in 2016 as part of Initiative 1433. As of Jan. 1, 2018, employers in Washington State are required to provide paid sick leave to their employees.
The tabs below give both employers and employees an overview of Washington's paid sick leave requirements. In-depth information is also available for employers on the following topics:
- Implementing a paid sick leave policy.
- Paid sick leave minimum requirements.
- Optional paid sick leave policies.
- Enforcement of paid sick leave laws.
If you are an employee in Washington State, your employer is now required to provide you with paid sick leave. The paid sick leave law was one of several changes to worker rights mandated by Initiative 1433, approved by Washington voters in 2016.
How much paid sick leave can I earn?
You must earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours you work. Employers may provide more leave if they choose.
You began earning paid sick leave on your first day of work on or after Jan. 1, 2018.
If you do not use all of the paid sick leave you’ve earned by the end of the accrual year, your employer must carry over balances of 40 hours or less to the next year.
Am I paid the same for a sick leave hour as I am for a regular work hour?
Yes. Your employer must pay your earned paid sick leave hours at your normal hourly compensation.
When may I use my earned paid sick leave?
You may use this leave:
- For a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition or if you need a medical diagnosis or preventative medical care.
- If a family member (see below) needs care for a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or needs a medical diagnosis or preventative medical care.
- If your workplace or your child’s school or place of care has been closed for any health-related reason by order of a public official.
- If you are absent from work for reasons that qualify for leave under the state’s Domestic Violence Leave Act (DVLA).
How soon may I begin using sick leave?
You may begin using earned paid sick leave 90 calendar days after your first day of work with your employer. If you separate from your employer and are rehired within 12 months, any days you worked before leaving your job will count toward this 90-day period.
What family members may I use paid sick leave to care for?
Family members include your:
- Child - This may include a biological, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, or child you are legally responsible for.
- Parent - This may include your biological, adoptive, or foster parent, your stepparent, or someone who was your legal guardian or their spouse or registered domestic partner – or a person who was legally responsible for you when you were a minor.
- Registered domestic partner.
Is my employer required to notify me of my right to paid sick leave?
Yes. All Washington employers must notify their employees of this right in writing (paper or electronic).
Your employer must give you an initial, one-time notice explaining:
- That you are legally entitled to paid sick leave.
- How much paid sick leave you will earn.
- When you may use paid sick leave.
- That they are prohibited from retaliating against you for using paid sick leave for any reason allowed by this law, or for exercising other rights within the Minimum Wage Act.
At least once a month, your employer must give you a statement (paper or electronic) that explains:
- How much paid sick leave you earned since your last notice.
- How much paid sick leave you used since your last notice.
- How much unused paid sick leave is available to you.
- (Your employer may use regular payroll statements to notify you.)
What if taking sick leave causes trouble for me at work?
If you use your paid sick leave for any reason allowed by this law, your employer is prohibited from disciplining you for this absence.
It’s also illegal for your employer to:
- Not pay you the current minimum wage.
- Not pay overtime owed to you.
- Retaliate or take any negative action against you for filing a complaint with L&I about paid sick leave, minimum wage or overtime – or for exercising any other right under the Minimum Wage Act.
If you have a complaint or suspicion about your employer not providing you with paid sick leave or violating your other rights under the Minimum Wage Act, you can report it to L&I. Complete the form below online or by mail, and include any relevant information or records. Mail or bring the form and records to the L&I office where the business is located.
Are employers required to give ALL employees paid sick leave?
There are only a few exceptions. They include employees who are doctors, lawyers, or dentists, as well as most executive managers who are paid on a salary (rather than an hourly) basis, if they supervise two or more full-time employees. More information: Administrative Policy ES.A.1, Minimum Wage Act Applicability.
What other protections for workers were included in Initiative 1433?
In addition to the paid sick leave requirement, Initiative 1433 includes three other changes to state law:
- Increases the minimum wage over the next several years.
- Ensures tips and service charges are given to the appropriate staff.
- Protects employees from retaliation when exercising their rights under the Minimum Wage Act.
Implementing a paid sick leave policy
- As an employer, you must offer paid sick leave for your employees. You have some choices about what your policy will include.
- Certain options require a written policy if you do not already have one.
- Your new or existing paid sick leave policy must meet or exceed the minimum requirements defined in state law.
- If a local ordinance requires more generous paid sick leave benefits for employees than state law, those requirements will apply.
- Even if you do not create a written paid sick leave policy, you still need to meet the minimum state requirements.
Paid sick leave policy minimum requirements
- At a minimum, you must provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked by an employee, regardless of full-time, part-time, temporary, or seasonal status.
- You must pay your employee’s normal hourly rate for paid sick leave hours that they use.
- You must allow your employees to use their paid sick leave to care for themselves or their family members no more than 90 days after they start working. Once employees become eligible to use accrued paid sick leave, you must make paid sick leave accruals available to employees for use in a manner consistent with your established payment intervals or leave records management system.
- Authorized uses of paid sick leave include:
- Illness or injury.
- Physical or mental health conditions.
- Doctor or dentist visits.
- Preventive care.
- Workplace, child’s school, or daycare closures ordered by a public official for any health-related reason.
- Leave that qualifies under Washington's Domestic Violence Leave Act.
- Authorized uses of paid sick leave include:
- You must pay employees their paid sick leave in the same pay period that it was used, unless you require verification for absences exceeding three days.
- You must have written policy if you require verification.
- You must notify your employees of their paid sick leave rights by their first day of employment.
- You cannot require employees to cover their shift before taking paid sick leave.
- You cannot require an employee to work a substitute shift when they use paid sick leave time.
- If both the employee and employer agree, an employee can work a different shift, or trade shifts with another employee instead of using paid sick leave.
- Employees’ unused paid sick leave balances of 40 hours or less must carry over from year to year.
- You can offer a more generous carryover policy.
- Employees’ unused paid sick leave balances must be reinstated if an employee is terminated or leaves their job for any reason and returns to the same employer within 12 months.
- Paid sick leave balances are not required to be reinstated if they are paid in full to the employee when employment ends.
- Paid sick leave balances generally do not have to be cashed out or paid when employment ends, unless another state law or a collective bargaining agreement requires it. However, certain workers in the construction industry must receive pay for the balance of their paid sick leave following separation from employment.
- Employees cannot be retaliated against for using paid sick leave, filing a complaint, or exercising their rights.