Understanding the Washington State Minimum Wage in 2023

Understanding the Washington State Minimum Wage in 2023
Browse this comprehensive guide to the Washington minimum wage in 2023, including exemptions, projections, and other information for small business owners.
by Meredith Galante Nov 11, 2022 — 3 min read
Understanding the Washington State Minimum Wage in 2023

With many states implementing multi year minimum wage campaigns, it can be hard to stay on top of what you’re required to pay in your state.

Washington state raised the minimum wage in 2023 and plans to do so every year according to the Consumer Price Index. Here’s what you need to know.

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What is the Washington state minimum right now?

The minimum wage in Washington will increase to $15.74 on Jan. 1, 2023. Younger workers, ages 14 or 15, can expect to be paid $13.38 an hour (85% of the standard minimum wage).

But if your business is in Seattle, the requirements are different. It’s one of a handful of cities across the country that has a plan to phase in a $15 minimum wage. (San Francisco was the first to get there).

When it comes to wages, Seattle delineates businesses by size: 500 employees or fewer and more than 501 employees.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, businesses with over 501 employees are required to pay $18.69 an hour, regardless of if they pay toward medical benefits. Seattle businesses with 500 or fewer employees must pay $16.50 an hour if they pay $2.19 an hour toward medical benefits and/or their employee earns $2.19/hour in tips. If that’s not the case, then the business must pay $18.69 an hour.

Keep in mind that other counties, cities, and towns may have their own minimum wage laws. You should do the research to determine which local wage laws may apply to you.

Minimum wage in Washington

Date Minimum Wage
January 1, 2019 $12.00
January 1, 2020 $13.50
January 1, 2021 $13.69
January 1, 2022 $14.49
January 1, 2023 $15.74

What’s happening to Washington’s minimum wage in the next few years?

Washington state minimum wage is set to increase 8.63% beginning January 1, 2023 to $15.74. While many states increase the minimum wage in accordance with the cost of living or inflation, Washington state decided in 2021 to make changes to the minimum wage based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. This decision will carry on to help advise future adjustments to the Washington state minimum wage. 

At a more local level, some Washington cities are projected to increase minimum wages at a quicker rate than the state. In 2023, the Seattle minimum wage will be over $2 more than the state’s minimum wage.

Seattle employers with 500 or fewer employees

  Pays $2.19/hour toward medical benefits and/or the employee earns $2.19/hour in tips  
Year Yes No
2021 $15.00 $16.69
2022 $15.75 $17.27
2023 $16.50 $18.69

Employers with 501 or more employees

Date Minimum Wage
2021 $16.69
2022 $17.27
2023 $18.69

How should I prepare for changes to the minimum wage as a business owner?

Washington state and Seattle are raising wages consistently for the next few years. Each year, you should examine your business and determine how those changes might affect you. Here are a few things you may want to do:

As always, to make sure your business is prepared and stays in compliance (for example knowing your employee’s rights or getting an EIN, you should discuss Washington minimum wage laws with your accountant and lawyer.

Meredith Galante
Meredith Galante is a freelancer writer based in New York City. She's been writing for Square since 2017 where she's covered everything from the best software for restaurants to use to maximize profit, minimum wage laws across the country, and tips for entrepreneurs to maximize their impact.


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