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Sick leave: It’s Spreading Like the Flu!

Posted on Feb 9, 2018 in:
  • MBA News
  • Builders

Five Key Things to Know About Washington’s New Sick Leave Law

By Larry Dickinson, PrimePay 

Note: MBAKS is hosting a paid sick leave and minimum wage seminar next Tuesday, February 13 at MBAKS Bellevue. Register now.

In 2006, the City of San Francisco passed the first mandatory sick leave law in the country. Since then, many other states and municipalities have adopted similar statutes. In fact, 47 states and the District of Columbia have considered establishing such ordinances to help protect the wages of employees affected by illness, injury, or domestic violence. 

1. Washington law—the basics.

In November of 2016, voters in Washington state voted to establish a mandatory sick leave law for workers in their state. Starting in January of 2018, all employees covered under the Washington State Minimum Wage law must accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

This law applies to all employers, even if they only have one employee. The problem is that many large cities in Washington such as Seattle and Tacoma have also adopted their own sick leave measures, and these measures are not always in sync with the state law.

What is the employer to do? We will attempt to highlight some of the differences between state law and those of the municipalities. Note that we are using Washington state as the example here; the same scenarios are playing out in other states around the nation.

2. Allowable uses of sick leave.

According to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, employees will be allowed to use sick leave for themselves or a family member for these reasons:

  • To care for themselves or family members.
  • When the employees’ workplace or their child’s school (or place of care) has been closed by a public official for health-related reasons.
  • Absences that qualify under the Domestic Violence Leave Act.

Note that employers may allow employees to use paid sick leave for additional purposes.

Unlike the laws adopted in Tacoma and Spokane, the Washington state regulation does not cover bereavement due to the death of family members.

3. Family member definition.

Washington allows the usage of paid sick leave for personal illness or injury as well as for family members defined below:

  • Child
  • Parent
  • Spouse
  • Grandparent
  • Grandchild
  • Sibling
  • Registered domestic partner

The big difference here is that Washington state allows that the child relationship is enforced regardless of the age of the child, while the city regulations only cover children up to the age of 18.

4. Accrual of sick time.

In general, employees must earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. This covers all non-exempt employees covered by the Washington State Minimum Wage Law. There is currently no coverage for exempt workers, including white collar workers, outside salespeople, or other professionals. 

In many of the local regulations, white collar workers are covered with the assumption of a flat 40-hour work week. Seattle law, as an example, covers all workers that work in the city of Seattle. While the new state law applies to all employers with even one employee, local laws can be applied differently depending on the size of the company. There is currently no cap on the number of hours earned each year by an employee. There is a cap on the number of hours that can carry over into the next year.

Read a full list of FAQs.

5. What should your business do?

In today’s business climate, employers are often confronted with conflicting city and state ordinances regarding sick leave accrual and usage. These laws, and their differences, can provide today’s small business owner with a nightmare.

How do you apply different laws to different groups of employees with different job descriptions, and working in different jurisdictions? An automated time and attendance system is a great option.

PrimePay offers a variety of systems to meet any employer’s needs. These programs can define almost any type of accrual policy imaginable and apply those policies to different groups of employees based on geography, employee type, or job description. Let the professionals at PrimePay build a system that will keep you in compliance for years to come.

Learn more at

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