Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Connecticut will have a new paid leave law in effect next month. As of Jan. 1, organizations with employees in Connecticut must be ready to meet the requirements under the new Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML).
While other states are readying for upcoming paid leave laws or making changes to existing statutes, Connecticut’s is the focus of disability management experts. As with all state leave laws, no two are the same. Employers need to understand the specifics of the latest leave act to ensure they are in compliance.
“If you are an employer with one or more Connecticut employees, this law applies to you,” explained Susan Murphy, director of Customer Service for Group Insurance at Prudential who recently addressed the leave landscape for 2022. “Sole proprietors, self-employed individuals may opt in, and that’s what we’re seeing, as well in other states.”
Murphy was among the panelists who addressed the nation’s leave laws, during a recent webinar produced by the Disability Management Employer Coalition.
Unlike laws in other states, Connecticut’s new statute applies to both non-profit and private sector employers. It differs from the state’s existing Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
“This is income replacement benefits,” Murphy said. “In Connecticut, job protection and income replacement are separate laws, and they may or may not coincide for your particular employee or the circumstance.”
The new PFML provides paid leave for life events that are already covered under other unpaid programs, such as the Federal and Connecticut FMLAs and the Connecticut Family Violence Act.
Where some other states require a certain amount of time worked, Connecticut’s PFML covers workers who meet a certain earnings test. To be eligible, an employee must have earned $2,025 in the highest earning quarter of the first quarter of the five most recent completed quarters.
“Interestingly, Connecticut, like Massachusetts, also has provisions for severed employees, terminated employees,” Murphy said. “They can take leave. They’re eligible for 12 weeks following their separation of employment to still file for a Connecticut PFML qualifying event. If they become re-employed by another Connecticut employer and obtain coverage for Connecticut PFML during that time, then they are no longer covered under that particular program.
However, not all employees who meet these criteria are covered. “If your employee is eligible to receive workers’ compensation or unemployment, any federal or other state program that provides wage replacement, they are not eligible for Connecticut PFML benefits,” Murphy said.
At the same time, an employee may receive PFML benefits concurrently with employer benefits, as long as the total compensation does not exceed 100 percent of the employee’s regular rate of pay.
Finally, eligible employees are those who work in Connecticut. “It’s not where you reside,” Murphy said. “Particularly on the East Coast, we know many people live in one state and work in another … so this is for Connecticut workers.”
The Act does not include a waiting or elimination period. Employees who qualify are eligible for their first day of leave. In terms of leave allotment, the PFML includes 12 weeks in a 12 month period, with an additional two weeks allowed for incapacity during pregnancy.
The benefit calculations are tied to a minimum wage. As of January, Connecticut’s minimum wage will be $13 an hour and will increase in July 2022 to $14 per hour.
Employee contributions for the program are half of 1 percent of the employee’s wages capped at the Social Security wage base, which for 2022 is $147,000. “Connecticut has a really interesting twist that we have not seen in other states regarding the employee contribution. Their law stipulates that the employee contribution can be lower than 0.5 percent but not higher,” Murphy said. “Other state programs recalculate what the employee contribution is every year, depending on their prior experience. Connecticut’s law actually says that if there are concerns around the solvency of the program, rather than ask for more or higher employee contributions, they will lessen or reduce the benefits payable.”
While Connecticut’s PFML takes effect in January, several other states are preparing to enact similar laws in the future.
- New Hampshire. Called the Granite State Paid Family Leave Program, it takes effect in January 2023. “It’s very, very different and unusual from anything we’ve seen before,” Murphy said. “This is a voluntary program for everyone except for state government employees … this has benefits effective in January 2023 and the state, of course, gets to set the rules, but there is no state plan per se.”
- Oregon. The program was pushed back, with benefits set to begin Sept. 3, 2023. Premium collections start Jan. 1, 2023.
- Colorado. Premium collections for this plan begin in January 2023, however benefits do not start until January 2024. The income replacements “are very, very high,” Murphy said, “90 percent for those earning less than 50 percent of the state average weekly wage … they are trying to replace higher amounts of employees’ wage for lower wage earners.”
The U.S. House of Representatives recently OK’d a federal leave proposal that is included in a larger, Reconciliation Act. Senate leaders have indicted they hope to have a vote before Christmas.
“I am asked fairly routinely when the federal government will step in and come up with a paid family medical leave program so each state doesn’t cobble together their own program and multistate employers don’t have so many different rules to comply with and laws to comply with,” Murphy said. “And this is a very interesting proposal.”
Murphy predicts the paid family medical leave will be stripped out of the reconciliation bill in the Senate. “So the path is really unclear in 2022 what’s going to happen with federal paid family medical leave,” she said. “I would say that you probably could expect renewed efforts at the state level if the federal government does not pass paid family medical leave.” Delaware, Maine and Pennsylvania are states “interested” in paid family medical leave, Murphy said.