Paid Time Off (PTO) in Washington
Vacation Leave Quota
0 days. No federal or Washington law requires employers to provide vacation leave.
Private employers in Washington are not required to provide paid or unpaid vacation.
However, most employers in the US provide employees with 10 paid days off after 1 year on the job. Still, the amount of paid time off (PTO) can vary based on factors such as the industry, location, and the employee’s length of service with the company.
If a company decides to provide its employees with vacation time, whether paid or unpaid, it is required to follow relevant state regulations, abide by its own policies, and uphold the terms of the employment agreement.
The accrual system is not obligatory in Washington, but it is commonly adopted by businesses.
Employers have the flexibility to create their own vacation accumulation method, which may be in hourly, daily, weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly intervals and is typically determined by the company’s pay cycle. Official payroll frequency in Washington is monthly; this means that employers in Washington are obligated to compensate most hourly workers via a regular payday, scheduled at a minimum monthly.
The employer has the ability to cap (establish a maximum amount of) vacation time that an employee can accumulate in a given year.
Roll Over (Carry Over, Brought Forward)
A use-it-or-lose-it policy is permitted.
A “use-it-or-lose-it” type of policy is when an employee forfeits any remaining vacation time after a certain date, usually at the end of the year. Employers may implement this policy, because this issue is not addressed in state statutes.
Employers usually implement a use-it-or-lose-it vacation policy because some employees use very little PTO. Long-term employees can accrue a lot of PTO over the years, which can be quite costly if company policy requires it to be paid out on termination.
Statutory Provisions Addressing Vacation Pay
Not required by state law.
Employers in the state are not legally obligated to provide vacation leave to their employees. However, if an employer chooses to offer paid vacation time, the duration of the vacation time an employee is entitled to is determined by the employer’s policy or the terms of the employment contract.
Payment of Accrued, Unused Vacation on Termination
Not required. Employers only follow their own company policy.
An employer may legally establish a policy or contract that denies employees payment for accumulated vacation time upon their departure from the company.
If a company policy or employment contract is silent on this matter, an employer is also not required to provide a PTO payout on termination.
Even though Washington doesn’t have a law requiring PTO payout at termination, employers might be responsible for paying out unused PTO to an employee who leaves the company. If there is a company policy or employment contract that requires it, an employer is required to pay unused PTO to a separating employee.
Sick Leave in Washington
Federal Laws – Leave Quota
Federal law requires 12 weeks of unpaid sick leave.
The standard federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to Washington (as it is in all the states in the U.S.A). The leave is job-protected.
Employees qualify for FMLA benefits only if:
- they have been employed for at least 12 months (at least 25 hours per week) or 1,250 hours in the previous year
- they work in a location where at least 50 people are employed by the company (in a 75-mile radius)
The FMLA entitles qualified employees to take up to 12 weeks off for:
- personal medical reasons – illness or injury
- to care for a close family member (child, spouse, or parent) suffering from a severe illness
- maternity or paternity leave.
Check out our article on FMLA to learn more.
Washington State Laws
Washington has paid sick law, and the cities of Seattle and Tacoma have their own.
Washington’s Paid Sick Leave Law
All Washington employers must provide paid sick leave.
Almost all employees (including part-time and seasonal workers) are covered. Only lawyers, dentists, doctors, executive managers, and construction workers covered by the CBA are excluded.
Employees earn 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Employers may provide additional sick leave, better than the state minimum requirements. There is no annual accrual cap, or limit for annual usage. Front-loading is permitted. Employees may carry over up to 40 hours to the following year. The accrual begins upon hire, though employees might have to wait 90 days before they start using it (if an employer requires so).
Employees can use paid sick leave for:
- their own health illness, injury, or health condition
- to care for a family member with an illness, injury, or health condition
- the closure of a workplace, children’s school, or place of care by order of public officials, because of any health-related reason
- reasons related to domestic violence, abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST) Ordinance
All Seattle employers must provide paid sick leave.
The size of the employer determines the amount of leave:
1–49 employees: 1 hour of PSST per 40 hours worked, carry-over limit can be set at 40 hours per year;
50–249 employees: 1 hour of PSST per 40 hours worked, carry-over limit can be set at 56 hours per year;
250 employees or more: 1 hour of PSST per 30 hours worked, carry-over limit can be set at 72 hours per year (108 hours for employers with PTO).
Paid sick leave can be used for the same reasons as in the state of Washington (see above).
Tacoma’s Paid Sick Leave
All employees (including part-time and temporary) who work in Tacoma for more than 80 hours in a year earn paid sick leave. An employee earns 1 hour for every 40 hours worked, and may carry-over up to 40 hours into the following year.
Paid sick leave, besides the same reasons as in the state of Washington (see above), can also be used for bereavement.
Sick leave in Washington is paid by the employer.
Maternity, Paternity, FMLA in Washington
12 weeks of unpaid maternity/paternity leave is provided by FMLA.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that allows eligible workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for family or medical reasons, including maternity or paternity leave. Unless otherwise authorized by the employer, an employee must take this leave continuously. More information about FMLA eligibility can be found above, under the section Sick Leave in Washington: Federal Laws – Leave Quota.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is one more federal law that protects pregnant women. According to the PDA, discrimination against pregnant people is prohibited in all areas of employment: hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, fringe benefits, training, leave, and health insurance.
Additional State Laws in Washington
Washington State Paid Family and Medical Leave
All employers in Washington must offer paid family and medical leave.
This program is funded through premiums that are paid by both employers and employees. Employers pay 27.24% and employees pay 72.76% of the total premium. Small companies with 1-49 employees aren’t required to pay the employer part of the premium, but they still participate in collecting and submitting the employees’ part of the premium.
Employees receive up to 90% of their weekly wages, with a maximum of $1000 per week.
To qualify for paid family and medical leave benefits, an employee must work at least 820 hours during the “qualifying period”. This means that an employee must have worked a minimum of 820 hours, which can be achieved by either working during the first four of the last five finished calendar quarters or, if that’s not enough, during the last four finished calendar quarters right before they apply for leave.
The leave could last:
- Up to 12 weeks per year (to bond with a new baby or child; for an employee’s own serious illness or injury; or to care for a family member with a serious health condition)
- Up to 16 weeks (if there is more than one qualifying event)
- Up to 18 weeks (for a female employee who experiences a condition during pregnancy or birth that results in incapacity)
Job protection applies to employers with more than 50 employees.
The Washington Family Care Act allows employees with accrued paid sick leave to use the leave to care for a sick child, a spouse or domestic partner, a parent, a parent-in-law, or a grandparent. All employers who provide paid sick leave are covered.
Pregnancy Disability Leave requires employers with 8 or more employees to provide unpaid, job-protected leave to female employees disabled by pregnancy, birth, or other related medical conditions.
Bereavement Leave in Washington
An employer is not required to provide bereavement leave.
An employer is not legally required to provide any paid or unpaid bereavement leave, or any time off to attend an immediate family member’s funeral. However, nearly all American companies, offer paid time off for bereavement, which usually lasts for up to 3 work days. Some companies are even more generous and offer a maximum of 5 or 6 days.
Bereavement leave in Washington is unpaid.
Jury Duty Leave in Washington
Employers must provide employees with unpaid time off for jury duty.
Employers are required to provide employees with unpaid, job-protected leave to report to jury selection or jury duty. An employee may have to present the employer with a jury summons to be given the leave.
An employer may not fire, threaten to fire, penalize, or punish the employee in any way for responding to a jury summons.
The employer pays:
An employer in Washington doesn’t need to pay employees while on jury duty, but most employers do it as the court compensation is rather low.
The court pays:
Employees who serve as jurors in Washington are paid $10.00 a day (though juror pay is only a token amount).
Military Leave in Washington
All employers in the U.S. must comply with USERRA. Additional state laws.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a federal law that applies to employers of all sizes and types in the U.S. USERRA protects employees called to active duty in the U.S. military, including the U.S. Armed Forces, Reserves, and National Guard. USERRA provides reinstatement rights, protection from discrimination, the right to continue group health care benefits for up to 24 months during their leave, and up to 5 years of unpaid leave for military service (with exceptions to this 5-year limit).
Washington State Law
Mirroring the federal USERRA, Washington law also protects the employment and reemployment rights of uniformed service members: the Washington National Guard, the US Armed Forces, the Coast Guard, or the US Public Health Service. Members of these uniformed services may take unpaid leave for deployment, training, or any other activity related to a military order. All job protections, reemployment rights, and protections against discrimination apply to them.
When military service members are about to be deployed or on leave from deployment, eligible spouses or registered domestic partners are entitled to receive up to 15 days of unpaid leave from their employers. In order to qualify, the worker is required to work an average of 20 hours per week or more.
Military leave in Washington is unpaid.
Voting Leave in Washington
Not required by state law.
Washington law doesn’t require an employer to provide employees with time off to vote on Election Day.
Currently, 29 states have laws providing employees with time off for voting. Washington is not one of them.
Voting leave Washington is unpaid.
Washington State Holidays for 2023
A leave for holidays is not required by state law.
Private employers in Washington are not required to provide paid or unpaid leave for holidays. However, the majority of employers provide several paid holidays.
Holiday pay (“time-and-a-half,” or 150 percent of the regular rate) is also not mandated by law.
Complete list of official holidays recognized and celebrated by the state of Washington in 2023:
|Monday, 2 January||New Year’s Day|
|Monday, 16 January||Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (3rd Monday in January)|
|Monday, 20 February||President’s Day (3rd Monday in February)|
|Monday, 29 May||Memorial Day (The Last Monday in May)|
|Monday, 19 June||Juneteenth National Independence Day|
|Tuesday, 4 July||Independence Day|
|Monday, 4 September||Labour Day (1st Monday in September)|
|Friday, 10 November||Veteran’s Day|
|Thursday, 23 November||Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday in November)|
|Friday, 24 November||Native American Heritage Day|
|Monday, 25 December||Christmas|
- Washington State Legislature – Labor Regulations, https://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?Cite=49
- Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries – Paid Sick Leave Minimum Requirements, https://lni.wa.gov/workers-rights/leave/paid-sick-leave/paid-sick-leave-minimum-requirements
- Washington State’s Paid Family and Medical Leave, https://paidleave.wa.gov/
- Washington Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law, https://www.bakerdonelson.com/webfiles/EZGuide/Washington_LE_Easy_Guide.pdf
- The Washington Employment Law Guide, https://joinhomebase.com/state-labor-laws/washington/
- Payroll and Benefits Guide United States – Washington, https://www.papayaglobal.com/countrypedia/country/united-states-washington-state/
- Leave Laws by State and Municipality: 50-State Charts, https://www.xperthr.com/fifty-state-charts/leave-laws-by-state-and-municipality/20973/
Updated: March 16, 2023
Check out our Leave Laws page to learn more about laws in various countries.