Ralph M. Tsong
How Surrogates and Intended Parents in Washington state can receive paid leave
Washington State provides time off to its employees, including surrogates and intended parents, due to pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting. Under Washington's Paid Family Medical Leave Act (PFMLA), an employee may be eligible for up to 18 weeks per year of paid maternity or paternity (parental) leave.
Compared to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, Washington's PFMLA provides extra protection for employees who work in Washington. Most significantly, Washington’s PFMLA provides for paid leave, while the federal law only guarantees unpaid leave. Additionally, Washington doesn't restrict the law to larger employers. Any size employer must provide leave under the law and it has a broader definition of "family" that includes siblings and grandparents.
There are two main types of leave available which are the (1) Medical Leave; and (2) Family Leave which includes “baby bonding” leave and military family leave.
To be qualified for medical leave, you must experience a serious health condition that prevents you from working, which includes pregnancy, major surgery, and treatment for a chronic health condition. Meanwhile, similar to California, Intended Parents may also file for family leave to bond with their new baby in their family during the first 12 months after the child’s birth, or the first 12 months after the placement of a child under the age of 18 with the employee.
Employees may only receive Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) benefits if they meet the eligibility criteria. The law provides that an employee must have worked 820 hours in their qualifying period. All hours you work in Washington count toward eligibility, even if you work multiple jobs or switch employers.
However, there are a few exceptions which mean that these workers don't always get benefits under Washington's paid leave law:
federal government employees;
self-employed individuals (they have the option to participate in PFML);
employees covered under an approved voluntary plan (you can find the list here);
people who perform "casual" (irregular and infrequent) work for an employer; and
union members covered by certain collective bargaining agreements.
How Long is Maternity and Paternity Leave in Washington?
Washington residents can be eligible to receive up to 18 weeks total per year of paid family and medical leave. The total amount one can take in a year is:
up to 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave,
up to 16 weeks of leave when family and medical leave are both taken, or
up to 18 weeks of leave when family and medical leave are both taken and there are additional complications from pregnancy.
How much will you get paid?
You can receive up to 90% of your weekly pay under PFLMA—up to a maximum of $1,427 a week in 2023. Your weekly payments can be direct deposited to your bank if you file online.
How Do You File for Parental Leave in Washington?
The first time in filing for parental leave is to notify your employer at least 30 days before you plan to take leave. However, if the event is unforeseeable, you (or it may be a friend or relative) still need to provide written notice to your employer as soon as possible. The notice doesn't need to be complicated. You can just state that you intend on taking PFML leave and about how long you expect to be out. A sample notice is available here.
The second step is to fill out an application for PFML with the State. All applications for PFML require basic documentation, so you'll be asked to supply a form of identification such as a driver's license. You will also need to provide a Certification of Serious Medical Condition form, signed by your doctor, and—depending on the type of leave you're taking—additional documents such as a birth certificate.
After you apply, you can check the status of your application online. If you're approved for PFML, you'll receive a determination letter in the mail letting you know how much your weekly benefit will be and for how long your leave was approved.
Why It Matters to Surrogates or Intended Parents
Washington’s generous paid leave will alleviate up to 18 weeks of lost wages to a working Washington state surrogate, and this, in turn, reduces the number of lost wages the Intended Parents will have to reimburse the surrogate when she is unable to work due to pregnancy. Intended Parents who work and reside in Washington can enjoy up to 12 weeks paid family leave.
If you are a surrogate or intended parents starting a surrogacy journey, schedule an appointment to speak with us.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon without additional research or consulting an attorney. This article is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship with the reader.