Washington Family Care Act: Employer Overview

Washington Family Care Act
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Washington Laws Govern Sick Leave & Protected Leave

Washington State has many labor laws that govern the relationship between the employer and the employee. In addition to the state’s sick leave laws, four of the state’s cities have also passed local sick leave laws. Further, Washington has a family leave act that expands protected leave beyond the Family and Medical Leave Act. Lastly, the state has a Family Care Act (FCA). The Family Care Act governs all paid sick leave and personal time off. It provides a means for employees to use paid time off (PTO) for the care of a sick family member.

Overview of the Family Care Act

The Family Care Act applies to all employers, regardless of employee size. Unlike FMLA, employees do not have to pass through any qualifications in order to be eligible under FCA. Any employer who offers paid sick leave must allow employees to use that sick leave to care for a family member who is sick.

Provisions of the Family Care Act

Under the FCA, employees can take leave differently based on whether the sick family member is a child or another family member. If a child is under 18 yrs old and is sick, then the employee can take leave for three reasons.

First, if the child has a health condition that requires supervision or treatment or administration of medication that the child cannot self-administer. Second, for any physical or mental health condition that would endanger the child’s life without the presence of a parent or guardian. Third, any condition that warrants treatment or preventative care such as physical, dental, optical, or immunization service where a parent must be present to authorize and when the employee could otherwise use sick leave for preventative care.

  1. Child’s health condition requires medication the child could not self-administer
  2. Child’s health condition would endanger the child’s life without the presence of a parent
  3. Preventative care or treatment: physical, dental optical, immunization service that requires the authorization of the parent.

Employees can also take sick leave to care for other family members. In the case of other family members, the act requires a serious health condition or emergency condition for the employee to use sick leave.

Serious health condition includes any injury, illness, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves incapacity involving in patient care. Inpatient care includes an overnight stay at a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility. It also includes the subsequent treatment and recovery connected to the inpatient care. Any period of incapacity is included.

Emergency condition refers to a condition that is sudden, demands immediate action, and usually short-term in nature.

  1. A serious health condition that requires patient care and the subsequent treatment of the condition
  2. Emergency condition

Family Member Definitions under FCA

Employees can use FCA for the care of their child. Children include biological, adopted and foster children. It also includes stepchildren, legal wards, and a child for whom the employee stands in loco parentis. For the FCA, children under the age of 18 are included in the law. If the child is over 18, then they must be incapable of self-care in order to be included in the law.

In addition, FCA also includes parents, biological, adopted and persons who stood in loco parentis when the employee was a minor.

Grandparents and parents-in-law are also considered family relationships under FCA.

  • Child: biological, adopted, foster, step, legal ward, in loco parentis
  • Parent: adopted, biological, in loco parentis
  • Parent in law
  • Grandparents

Coordinating the Family Care Act with Washington’s Sick Leave Laws

Washington’s 2016 Sick Leave Law created mandatory sick leave for Washington employers. Employees accrue sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 40 hours worked and the state does not cap sick leave accrual.

The mandatory sick leave provided by the state allows employees to also take time off to care for a grandchild, a sibling or a domestic partner. Further, the law does not require a serious or emergency health condition in order for the employee to use accrued sick leave.

This means that employers who provide more than the required time off must track that time and should determine if they will allow employees to use paid time off for siblings, grandchildren or domestic partners. FCA allows employers to be more generous than the law requires, which means employers could have a policy that allows additional family member illness be included for sick leave usage for the time awarded above the state’s sick leave.

In addition, employers in Tacoma must also be aware that the sick leave awarded by the Tacoma Sick Leave Ordinance also allows sick leave usage for household members. Household members are defined to include ex-spouses, ex-domestic partners, parents with a child in common, adults who reside or have resided together in the past. In addition stepparents and stepchildren are also defined as household members. Tacoma’s ordinance provides 24 hours a year.

Employers in Seattle must provide between 40 and 72 hours of sick leave, depending on the size of the employer. The Seattle Sick Leave Ordinance also provides sick leave use for additional family members than the FCA. Like Tacoma, the ordinance provides for children of any age, siblings, grandchildren and household members.

The Spokane Sick Leave Ordinance provides 24 to 40 hours of sick leave to employees and includes sick leave for domestic partners and grandchildren, in addition to those covered under Washington’s Sick Leave and Family Care Acts.

Lastly, for employers covered under the SeaTac Sick Leave Ordinance, domestic partners and grandchildren are the additional family relationships allowed for sick leave use. SeaTac employees earn 1 hour of sick leave for every 40 worked and have no accrual limits on the sick leave that can be taken.  

Let SwipeClock Help

Washington’s many layers of employment law mean that employers must carefully navigate and maintain compliance. That the Family Care Act and Washington’s Paid Sick Leave Act have different definitions of family-related sick leave usage means that businesses must carefully track accrual hours and uses.

Often, these businesses must also often navigate between local city laws in Tacoma, Seattle, SeaTac, and Spokane.

Additionally, these businesses have to also comply with Federal Overtime Laws, the Family Medical Leave Act and any other national or local laws that are enacted. SwipeClock provides a comprehensive array of workforce management and time tracking tools that can help businesses to more easily stay in compliance with local and national laws.

Records are effortlessly kept for years and accrual is automatically tracked and reported to employees according to the state and city laws. Additionally, with geo-timekeeping clocks, businesses can effortlessly track time worked in specific cities to ensure compliance.


Family Care Resource

The Family Care Act

Written by Annemaria Duran. Last updated on July 6, 2017.

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