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State paid leave rules change after COVID-19

by Staff report
| December 13, 2021 1:00 AM

OLYMPIA — New legislation took effect in August that expanded the qualifying period for people who worked fewer hours because of COVID-19. If they meet other eligibility requirements, they may be able to qualify for paid family or medical leave benefits under this new expansion, according to a press release from the Washington Employment Security Department.

How to qualify for Paid Leave

Currently, to be eligible for paid family or medical leave benefits, a worker must experience a qualifying event, such as caring for a family member or for themselves during a serious health condition. People also need to have worked 820 hours in Washington during the qualifying period. Normally, the Paid Leave program checks for the number of hours worked in the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters. If people didn’t work 820 hours then, Paid Leave will also review the last four completed calendar quarters immediately preceding the application for leave.

What changed?

The new legislation allows the Paid Leave program to look further back into a worker’s employment history to see if they met the qualifying period requirement before the pandemic. This means that people who haven’t been able to work as much because of COVID-19 could still be eligible based on their pre-pandemic employment.

People may benefit from this expansion if they meet standard eligibility requirements and these three conditions:

• During approximately the year preceding their date of application, COVID-19 caused a cut in their hours, or caused them to be furloughed or laid off.

• Their qualifying event happened between Jan. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022.

• They worked 820 hours from January to December 2019, or from April 2019 to March 2020. There’s still time to apply

People who have already applied and were denied for not having enough hours can log into their Paid Leave benefit account and submit a Request for Review with “employment history” as the reason for the request.

People who experience qualifying events between Jan. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, should apply following the regular application process. Even if the qualifying event happened in the past, they should still apply, as long as the event happened no earlier than Jan. 1, 2021.

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