Employer Insights

Washington Paid Sick Leave Law - The Complete Guide for 2024

by Lori Brown, on Mar 5, 2024 8:45:00 AM

Washington State Paid Sick Leave Law was first passed in 2016 as part of State Initiative 1433. As of January 18th, employers in the state are now generally required to provide paid sick leave to employees under Washington State Sick Leave Law.

Every employer in the state is subject to Washington State Paid Sick Leave, making it one of the most critical Washington labor laws to comply with

Leveraging a Washington payroll & HR company like PayNW can help your business manage compliance with Washington State Sick Leave Law, and other state leave laws with software and solutions like time and attendance

To help businesses manage compliance with Washington State Paid Sick Leave, we’ve put together the following guide for Washington State Businesses.

Washington State Paid Sick Leave Law Overview

Employers in Washington must provide every employee with paid sick leave, with the exception of traditionally exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). As a result, understanding how to classify employees under the FLSA is crucial for employers in order to avoid penalties for noncompliance. 

Additionally, doctors, lawyers, or dentists, as well as most executive managers who supervise two or more full-time employees, and are paid on a salary (rather than an hourly) basis, are also exempt from the state’s paid sick leave requirements.

Washington Sick Leave Accrual

Washington State employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours they work

One of the more unique components of Washington's Paid Sick Leave Law, employers may not “cap” the number of hours that employees can accrue in a given year. In addition, employees must be allowed to carry over a minimum 40 hours of paid sick leave from one year to the next.

When Do Employees Begin Accruing Sick Leave in Washington?

Employees in Washington also begin accruing paid sick leave upon the first day of employment, another less common component of Washington Sick Leave.

However, important to note is that while accrual begins on the first day of employment, paid sick leave may not be used until the 90th day of employment.

Washington Sick Leave Usage

As stated above, employees can begin using Washington Paid Sick Leave starting on their 90th day of employment. Important to note is that employees that separate from their employer and are rehired within 12 months don’t have their 90-day count reset.

Eligible Uses for Sick Leave

Employees may use Washington State Paid Sick Leave for the following reasons:

  • For a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition or if a medical diagnosis or preventative medical care is required
  • If an employee’s family member* needs care for a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or needs a medical diagnosis or preventative medical care
  • If an employee's place of work or their child’s school or place of care has been closed for any health-related reason by order of a public official
  • If an employee is absent from work for reasons under Washington Domestic Violence Leave Act (DVLA)

Who Qualifies as a Family Member Under Washington Sick Leave Law?

Under Washington State Paid Sick Leave, a family member includes:

  • Children
    • Biological, adopted, foster child, stepchild, or child that an employee is legally responsible for
  • Parent
    • Biological, adoptive, foster parent, or stepparent 
    • An employee’s legal guardian 
    • An employee’s spouse or registered domestic partner 
    • Or a person who was legally responsible for the employee as a minor
  • Spouse
  • Registered domestic partner
  • Grandparent
  • Grandchild
  • Sibling

Washington State Sick Leave Pay

Washington Paid Sick Leave is compensated at an employee’s normal rate of pay. Important to note for employers, however, is that unused sick leave does not need to be paid out upon termination of employment.

Employer Responsibilities for Washington State Paid Sick Leave

First and foremost, Washington employers must notify their employees of this right to Paid Sick Leave in writing, paper, or electronically. Employers must also provide employees with an initial notice that includes the following information:

  • The employee’s eligibility regarding Paid Sick Leave
  • Information regarding sick leave accrual
  • Information regarding sick leave usage
  • The fact that employers may not retaliate against employees for using paid sick leave for any reason allowed by Washington Paid Sick Leave Law, or for exercising other rights within the Minimum Wage Act.

Many companies handle these types of required postings with a labor law poster subscription service.

Employers must also provide employees with a monthly statement, paper or electronic, that includes:

  • Accrued leave since last notice
  • Leave used since last notice
  • Current accrued, unused sick leave

These monthly statements may be included in employees' regularly scheduled pay statements.

Get Help With Washington State Paid Sick Leave Law

Due to some of the more unique requirements of Washington State Paid Sick Leave, many employers in the state struggle with managing compliance. Administering Washington Paid Sick Leave can also be quite the challenge without the proper software and solutions at your back. 

Businesses that are struggling with Washington Sick Leave should reach out to a Washington Payroll and HR company for assistance, or to learn more about modern timekeeping solutions that can help with managing things like sick leave. 

Contact us for help with Washington Sick Leave, or get connected with a Washington Payroll and HR provider today.

New call-to-action

Guest Author: Lori Brown

Lori B-modifiedLori Brown, CEO of PayNW a leading Washington payroll and HR services company, took the reins in September 2021 from founder Mike Anderson. Growing PayNW from $500K to $8M in annual revenue, Lori has maintained a 96% client retention rate, year over year. She is a talented leader, with extensive experience in payroll, Human Capital Management, Employee Retention Credit (ERC) efforts, and more. Lori was elected to the board of the Independent Payroll Processors Association in 2021 and is a Puget Sound Business Journal 40 Under 40 honoree. She is a mom of three and has been happily married for the past 20 years.

Topics:State Labor LawsWashington Labor LawsEmployee Leave Laws

View All Insights

New call-to-action

Did You Know...

Recent legislative updates have just gone into effect throughout Washington requiring updates to employee notices for minimum wage.

If your Washington labor law posters are not yet updated, you may be out of compliance. Failure to display the required state and federal employment law notices can result in penalties, fines, and lawsuits.

Get Automatic Labor Law Poster Updates When Changes Happen 

Try a labor law poster subscription service and receive updated mandatory notices that need to be posted for employees as additional changes take place with Oregon's state or local labor laws. 


About The Employer Insights Blog

The employer insights blog is where you can stay up-to-date with all the latest developments you need to be aware of as an employer, so you can focus on the business of your business. 

Subscribe To Other Updates Like This

Get More Employer Alerts Like This
Right To Your Inbox