Washington State Expands Paid Sick Leave for Emergencies and Family Care

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In a move to provide greater flexibility and security for workers, Washington has expanded the permitted uses for paid sick leave starting January 1, 2025. A new law signed by the governor on March 28, 2024 allows employees to use their accrued paid sick time during officially declared emergencies and to care for a broader range of family members.


Emergency Paid Sick Leave Use

Under the updated paid sick leave rules, employees in Washington can use their paid sick time off when a state of emergency is declared by local, state or federal authorities. This provision allows workers to take necessary time away from work during crises like natural disasters, pandemics or other emergency events impacting public safety.


Expanded Family Care Definition

The law also expands the definition of “family members” that employees can take paid sick leave to care for. In addition to spouses, children, parents and other relatives previously covered, paid sick time can now be used to care for any individual who:

  • Regularly resides in the employee’s home, AND
  • Has an expectation that the employee provides care for them due to the nature of their relationship


This means employees can use accrued paid sick days to care for a roommate, extended family member, or other co-resident who relies on them for aid when ill, injured or requiring medical care or diagnosis. However, it excludes situations where unrelated individuals simply share a residence without an expectation of caregiving.
By allowing paid sick time usage during emergencies and for a wider circle of family members, the new law aims to provide Washington workers with greater flexibility to manage unexpected situations and caregiving responsibilities that previously may have forced them to choose between work and other commitments.


Employers should review their paid sick leave policies ahead of the January 1, 2025 effective date and update them as needed to comply with the expanded permitted uses under the law. The new provisions give Washington’s workers additional security and demonstrate the state’s commitment to supporting working families.


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