Business Alert! Changes to Washington Paid Sick Leave Start January 1, 2018


By: James P. Sikora

Beginning January 1, 2018, all employers in Washington State must allow non-exempt employees to use paid sick leave.  Employers may comply with the new law by maintaining a paid sick leave policy or PTO policy that provides paid sick leave as long as the PTO policy satisfies all requirements of the law, including the rate of accrual and carryover.  

The Basics

  • Employees must accrue paid sick leave at a rate of 1 hour for every 40 hours worked. Accrual begins January 1, 2018, for existing employees or upon start of employment for new employees.

  • The law does not apply to employees who are exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements under the Washington Minimum Wage Act, which includes those employees who satisfy the requirements for the professional, administrative, and executive exemptions.

  • Employers may require employees to wait up to 90 days after the start of employment to use paid sick time.

  • Employees may use paid sick time for: to care for themselves or family members; when the employee’s workplace or their child’s school or place of care has been closed by a public health official for any health-related reason (not including inclement weather); and for absences that qualify for leave under Washington’s Domestic Violence Leave Act.

  • The law does not provide for caps on accrual or use of paid sick time. This means that employees may use as much paid sick time per year as he or she has accrued.

  • Employers must always allow employees to carryover up to 40 hours of accrued, unused paid sick time from year to year.

  • Employers may require employees provide verification for absences that exceed three consecutive work days for the employee.

  • Retaliation for use of paid sick leave is prohibited.

The law requires employers to provide notices to employees of their rights and responsibilities under the law so it is important to take steps now to ensure compliance in anticipation of the January 1 effective date.

The above is a summary of the main elements of the new law.  Employers are encouraged to carefully review existing policies to ensure compliance or adopt new policies as needed to come into compliance.  

For more information, contact attorney James P. Sikora at

(The above should not be construed as specific legal advice and is intended for general information purposes only).

Veronica Whitney