What Can Sick Leave Be Used for in Washington State?

Posted by Alesha Struthers Aug 05, 2021

Washington state paid sick leave requires that all employers provide their employees with one hour of accrued sick leave for every 40 hours worked. In the first two posts of our series on the Washington state sick leave law, we explained employer requirements and whether employees can cash out their unused sick leave. This is the third post of our series where we will explain to employers what sick leave can be used for in Washington state  Employers will also learn more about Washington state sick leave and PTO, whether sick leave can be used for depression, and short term disability in regards to the new sick leave law.

This blog post is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitution for legal advice for your business. If you need legal advice for your business related to paid sick leave in Washington state, employment law matters, or HR matters, schedule a free consultation now with the Law Offices of Alesha Struthers.

Washington State Sick Leave Law and PTO

In Washington state, sick leave and PTO are two separate programs. Only sick leave is legally required. Offering PTO (paid time off) is an optional policy. If you choose to offer it, it combines all of the employee's sick leave, vacation time, and any other paid time off offered by your business into one single account. Your employee can take that time off for any reason as long as they have the hours available.

It is important to keep mind that while offering a PTO program is option, you must still continue to adhere to the law when it comes to the minimal accrual for sick leave as well as the carryover, notification, and access requirements. You must also provide a written PTO policy.

Can Washington State Sick Leave Law Be Used for Depression?

Yes, an employee can use their accrued sick leave for depression. They are allowed to use their sick leave for any mental or physical illness for themselves or for a family member. They may begin using their earned sick leave 90 calendar days after their first day of work.

However, you can create a reasonable notice policy for use of sick leave. If you do so, it must be in writing. It also cannot interfere with the right your employees have to use their sick leave. A reasonable notice policy explains that employees should provide you with notice about events, such as an appointment to see a doctor, as early as practical. If it is a last minute appointment, such as for urgent care, as early as practical is generally the best policy. As early as practical also helps inform employees that they need to notify you as soon as they can if they cannot make it into work because they are unable to work for a covered reason, including depression.

What Is Covered Under Washington State Paid Sick Leave Regulations?

The Washington state paid sick leave regulation covers any mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; time off to diagnose, care for, or treat a mental illness, injury, or health condition; time off to receive preventative medical care; leave necessary under the Domestic Violence Act; and if the employee's workplace or their child's school or daycare was closed by order of a public official for health reasons. This time off can be for the employee or for a family member of the employee. Washington state paid sick leave regulations to define a family member as:

  • A biological child, adopted child, foster child, stepchild, or a person whom the employee raised like a child, regardless of this person's age or dependency status.
  • A biological parent, adoptive parent, foster parent, stepparent, or a person whom the employee or their spouse or their registered domestic partner treats as their parent.
  • A spouse or registered domestic partner.
  • A grandparent.
  • A sibling
What about Short Term Disability under the Washington State Sick Leave?

Short term disability is offered by the state with a program known as Paid Family and Medical Leave. It is not related to the Washington state sick leave law, but it is a state program. Qualifying employees may be able to receive paid leave between 12 weeks and one year in length even if they are a part-time, temporary, or seasonal worker. They must experience a qualifying event, apply for leave, and file weekly claims with the state (among completing other steps). Employees can also estimate the amount of pay that they may receive (up to 90% of their weekly pay with a maximum weekly amount of $1,206 as of 2021).

Free Consultation for Employers: Sick Leave in Washington State

If you're an employer, it's natural to have questions about sick leave in Washington state. The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers is here to help. We offer free consultations to Washington employers with questions regarding sick leave in Washington state, other employment law matters, or HR-related issues. We're here to help! Schedule your free consultation today!

Disclaimer: This publication is not legal advice. It is intended as legal information only. For legal advice specific to your needs, contact the Law Offices of Alesha Struthers, PS at 800-972-0411.

Posted August 2021.