Updated Paid Family Medical Leave Expands Definitions of Family, Includes Those Impacted by Pandemic-Related Job Loss

parents and child sitting on a couch
Image from Employment Security Department video on PFML program

By Stephanie Goedecke,  Employment Security Department

Recent updates to Washington’s State’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program, PFML, through House Bill 1073, have expanded who may use it.

This program, launched on Jan. 1 of last year, is one of the first of its kind in the nation. And now it includes people whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19. The new updates allow people who originally did not qualify for benefits because they have had little or no working time during the pandemic to use their pre-shutdown employment to qualify.

PFML is also now more inclusive about who it recognizes as someone’s family.  People related by affinity and close association are included. Spouses include domestic partners. A de-facto parent (someone who is raising a child but is not their legal parent) may take this leave to care for a child regardless of whether they have a legal relationship. And there is no cut-off age after which a child would no longer qualify as someone’s child. Similarly, for elder care, an employee may take this leave to care for someone who was effectively a parent to them in their childhood. This relationship also does not have to have been a legal one.

In PFML’s first year, nearly 100,000 families were able to take time off to be there for those they love, according to the Employment Security Department, which administers the PFML program

About PFML

PFML encourages health and work-life balance by providing employees with up to 12 weeks per year (18 weeks in special circumstances), of partial wage replacement while taking time to care for themselves and people important in their lives. A new parent can more easily afford time off to bond with their baby or newly placed adopted child. If somebody could use a hand after surgery or an accident, a family member can use this leave to be there and care for them. Members of military families can take time to prepare for pre- and post-deployment activities, and for childcare issues related to a family member’s deployment.

For more information on PFML check out this short video about PFML on YouTube: