Family Ties: Connecticut Passes Paid Family and Medical Leave
Connecticut adopted a new paid family and medical leave law. The law requires all private sector employers with employees who work in Connecticut to provide paid leave to eligible employees, and it expands the allowable reasons for eligible leaves.
Connecticut enacted a paid family and medical leave law, which provides paid leave to eligible employees and expand allowable reasons for such leave. This Connecticut statute closely tracks Massachusetts’s parallel statute and appears to be among the most generous paid family leave laws in the country. All private sector employers (and their employees who work in Connecticut) are covered.
Connecticut’s “Paid Family and Medical Leave” act funds a paid family leave program by assessing a mandatory payroll tax on employees of 0.5% of income, commencing in January 2021. This tax will be subject to the Social Security cap (currently $132,900). Employees, however, will not be eligible for paid leave until one year later: January 1, 2022.
Eligible employees will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave in a 12-month period, for reasons covered under the existing Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (CFMLA). There will also be two additional weeks of compensation available for a serious health condition resulting in incapacitation that occurs during a pregnancy.
In addition to providing compensation, this new law expands CFMLA to cover employers with as few as one employee, and expands the definition of family member to a “spouse, sibling, son or daughter, grandparent, grandchild or parent, or an individual related to the employee by blood or affinity whose close association the employee shows to be the equivalent of those family relationships.” CFMLA provides coverage for employees who have been on the job “for at least three months immediately preceding his or her request for leave.”
The amount available to employees during leave is based on a sliding scale of 95% of the employee’s base weekly earnings up to a maximum cap of 60 times the state minimum wage. Connecticut’s minimum wage at the time benefits take effect will likely be $13 per hour, so a maximum benefit of $780 per week appears likely.
Connecticut’s law creates a Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Authority to oversee the leave program. Amounts are paid by a state trust fund established pursuant to the program, thus making the state of Connecticut, like Massachusetts, directly responsible for administering and paying benefits.
Although employers are not directly responsible for paying benefits under this Connecticut law, employers must (starting in 2022) notify employees both at the time of hire and annually thereafter of their right to benefits under the law. Retaliation by employers for utilizing the paid leave is, of course, prohibited.
Like the Massachusetts program established last year, Connecticut’s law permits employers to apply for an exemption if the employer provides a private plan with the same benefits as are available through the Connecticut state fund. Separately, employers participating in the state plan may require that employees substitute otherwise available paid vacation or other paid leave during a CFMLA leave, subject to the employee’s right to reserve up to two weeks of any such paid time off.
To implement the new Connecticut paid leave law, employers will likely need to work with their payroll providers. If an employer has employees in states outside of Connecticut and Massachusetts, the employer may want to consider whether an expansion of paid leave to other employees is feasible and desirable for uniformity within its workforce.