Connecticut to Offer Paid Family Leave Benefits
On June 25, 2019, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML), which will provide benefits to eligible employees who take leave for covered reasons.
The major practical effects of the PFML Act are:
- Funding the 12 weeks of paid leave through a 0.5 percent employee payroll tax that will be effective Jan. 1, 2021; benefits are available to eligible employees beginning Jan. 1, 2022
- Expanding coverage to employers with as few as one employee, and covering employees who have worked for their employer for as few as 12 weeks, with no minimum hours requirement
- Expanding covered Connecticut Family Medical Leave Act reasons to include caring for grandparents/children, siblings, and those who are equivalent to a family member
- Expanding the amount of leave available to eligible employees
Background and overview of Connecticut PFML program
The Connecticut FMLA currently requires employers with 75 or more employees in the state to provide eligible employees with 16 weeks of unpaid leave in a 24-month period. Under the current Connecticut FMLA, “eligible employee” is defined as an employee who works for the employer for at least 12 months and 1,000 hours in the 12 months immediately preceding the start of the qualifying leave. Under the PFML Act, employers with as few as one employee in Connecticut will be required to provide 12 weeks of paid leave, with an additional two weeks available to eligible employees who experience a pregnancy-related serious health condition that results in incapacitation.
The PFML Act removes the requirement that an employee must have worked for an employer for 12 months and 1,000 hours. Instead, an employee will be required to work for the employer for three months and have earned at least $2,325 in a “base period” to be eligible.
How will the Connecticut PFML program be funded and who is eligible?
The paid leave will be funded through employee payroll contributions. Employers will not make contributions to the program, but they will be required to deduct and withhold a mandatory tax of 0.5 percent from all employee paychecks beginning Jan. 1, 2021. The amount of wages subject to the paid leave tax is tied to the amount of annual earnings subject to Social Security taxes (currently $132,900).
Employees can begin applying for the benefit Jan. 1, 2022, although the Connecticut PFML Act provides for earlier payments of benefits for parental bonding leave if it is deemed administratively feasible.
Individuals employed by the state who belong to a union are exempt from the new law, but their union may collectively bargain to join the program. Self-employed individuals can opt-in to the program.
What are the calculations for Connecticut PFML benefit wages, and are there caps?
There is a cap on the weekly benefit an employee will receive – it cannot exceed 60 times the minimum wage – but the compensation benefit will be determined on a sliding scale, so lower-paid employees will receive a maximum benefit of up to 95 percent of their regular weekly pay. The PFML Act in Connecticut contains language indicating that benefits will be reduced if revenue is insufficient.
What are Connecticut PFML notification and documentation requirements for employers?
Starting July 1, 2022, employers must notify their employees at the time of hiring and every year thereafter about their entitlement to family and medical leave and family violence leave, and their right to file a claim for benefits. Employers must also notify employees that retaliation against an employee for requesting or using family medical leave is prohibited, and advise employees of their right to file a complaint with the state Labor Commission to seek redress for any violation.
What are qualified reasons for taking leave in Connecticut?
Qualified reasons for leave under the Connecticut PFML Act include the existing qualified reasons under the state’s FMLA, with an expansion of the definition of “family member.” Qualified reasons include:
- Birth or adoption of a child or a foster care placement for bonding purposes
- Provide care for a family member with a serious health condition
- To care for an employee’s own serious health condition
- To serve as an organ or bone marrow donor
- Military leave if a spouse, child or parent is called into active duty
Under the Connecticut FMLA, a family member includes a spouse, child, or parent. Under the PFML Act, the definition of “family member” will expand to also include a parent-in-law, sibling, grandchild, grandparent, or an individual related to the employee by blood or whose close association to the employee is the equivalent of those family relationships.
Is there a Private Plan Exemption?
Yes. An employer may apply to the Authority requesting an exemption as long as the employer is able to demonstrate that it will be able to satisfy its PFML Act obligations through its private plan. However, the private program must provide equivalent benefits and meet other specific requirements, including approval by a majority vote of the employer’s employees.
Even though the contributions and benefit payments under the new law do not begin for over a year or more, Connecticut employers should be aware of these upcoming changes in employee leave management.
The PFML Act requires the Connecticut Labor Commission to adopt regulations by Jan. 1, 2020, and those regulations should further detail the options and obligations of employers. Paychex will continue to monitor for developments and further guidance related to the Connecticut PFML law. For more information or to review the statute, please review the Connecticut Department of Labor website.