"The devil is in the details," they say, and that certainly appears to be the case with the state's new paid family and medical leave law.
While some details still need to be worked out, as the dust settles, the major framework of this new paid leave program is apparent.
And while the time for actual HR action is still in the future, it's never too early to begin educating yourself and preparing for changes.
For your immediate family and medical leave administration responsibilities, the message is to carry on as always, but begin preparing to adjust to the changes we summarize below.
Employee payroll deductions at the designated rate of 0.5% are not scheduled to begin until Jan. 1, 2021.
For example, an employee earning a weekly wage of $1,000 will pay $5 per week ($260/yr) to the new Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Insurance Trust Fund.
That fund will be administered by the Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Authority, a political and corporate entity consisting of a 13-member board of directors responsible for managing the program.
Businesses with one or more employees must participate in the program. If you are self-employed or a sole proprietor, you may opt in.
Family and medical leave compensation will first be available to covered employees on Jan. 1, 2022, at the rate of 95% of weekly earnings, but no more than 60 times the applicable state minimum wage.
The new state minimum wage, as increased by the legislature this year, will be:
- $11 on Oct. 1, 2019
- $12 on Sept. 1, 2020
- $13 on Aug. 1, 2021
- $14 on July 1, 2022
- $15 on June 1, 2023.
So, when compensation is first provided as of Jan. 1, 2022, the maximum amount will be $780 (60 x $13), eventually rising to $900 when the minimum wage increases to $15.
Covered employees will be eligible for FMLA compensation after three months of employment, while self-employed or sole proprietors are eligible after a three-year period of enrollment.
Compensation shall be available for up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period, with an additional two weeks to a covered employee incapacitated by pregnancy.
Current law provides protected time off for the specific qualifying reasons, which, until now, have been unpaid unless the employee is eligible for other paid time-off benefits.
Effective January 1, 2022, such time off will be compensated:
- upon the employee's own serious health condition
- in preparation for or upon the birth, adoption or foster placement of an employee's child
- to care for a family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition
- to serve as an organ or bone marrow donor
- because of a qualifying exigency or impending call to active military duty
A significant change expands the definition of family members with serious health conditions for whom the employee might take leave and receive compensation when needed to provide care.
In addition to spouse, child, and parent, the new law extends to:
- grandchildren, or
- any individual related to the employee by blood or affinity whose close association the employee shows to be the equivalent of those family relationships
By Jan. 1, 2022, the state labor commissioner must adopt regulations to determine when an individual's close association with an employee is the equivalent of a family member.
Starting Jan. 1, 2020, the authority is charged with informing individuals and employers about the program through a public campaign.
Employers who prefer to opt out of this entire scheme may apply to the authority for approval of a private plan, subject to state Insurance Department oversight, as long as the alternate plan provides the same rights, protections, and benefits as the state's program.
It is likely that the private insurance sector will step in and develop a comparable program for employers' consideration.
It is also possible that the state may look to such an alternative private sector benefit platform to partner with, as long as it can mesh with the obligation to provide the due process elements that a government-mandated benefit program entails.
Starting July 1, 2022, employers will have to provide written notice to new hires and annually thereafter to all employees with information about program entitlements and claims procedures, most likely via a new workplace poster.
And finally, the state's current job-protected leave time of 16 weeks in a 24-month period will end Jan. 1, 2022, replaced by 12 weeks leave in a 12-month period, consistent with federal law.
Employers who have administrative experience under the federal FMLA (50 or more employees), or Connecticut FMLA (75 or more employees), should have an easier time with the transition.
For employers with one to 49 employees, there is time to learn, and adjust.
We will all need it.
Join us at CBIA's September 13 Wage & Hour Conference, where we will present an overview of the new paid FMLA law as part of a brief legislative update.