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Paid medical and family leave starts in Washington in January

Washington state workers will be able to take up to 18 weeks of paid leave starting in January 2020.

SEATTLE — Most workers in Washington can take between 12 and 18 weeks of family and medical leave beginning Jan. 1 through a new state program.

Washington will be one of just eight states with paid leave in the works or on the books. Washington D.C. also provides paid leave. This is a big benefit to workers whether it's a serious health condition or caring for a family member. It brings stability during challenging times.

Here are the basics:

  • Nearly everyone qualifies. If you worked 820 hours in 2019, which amounts to about 16 hours a week, and have a qualifying life event, you're eligible.
  • You can start applying in January.
  • You can take 12 weeks of paid leave a year to care for yourself, but you could take more if you have another qualifying event in the same year – potentially up to 18 weeks. And while you're out, you'll get partial paychecks.
  • You don't have to take all of your leave at once. For example, you can take one day off a week for chemotherapy treatment.
  • The program is funded by workers and some employers. Small businesses with less than 50 employees aren't required to contribute.
  • If you earn $50,000 a year, less than $2.50 is taken out of your paycheck each week.

You might be wondering how this compares to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The federal program makes employers give time off up to 12 weeks, but it doesn't have to be paid. 

RELATED: New law lets Seattle workers take paid leave after death of a child