It seems likely that some type of paid Family and Medical Leave (otherwise known as “Paid FMLA”) bill is going to pass the General Assembly.
CBIA recently posted about the pitfalls that await employers with passage with one CBIA staff testifying that “small businesses are terrified of this proposal.”
But the “paid” aspect of the bill is only one part. I’m not going to cover that in this post, but there are plenty of resources already on what it might mean.
What hasn’t been widely reported is that the bill would allow nearly all employees at nearly all companies in Connecticut to take protected family and medical leave — a monumental shift from the limits that are currently in place. But in another way, it would expand the ability of employees to take unpaid leave too.
A caveat – there are various versions of the bill floating around. For purposes of clarity, Bill No. 1 – which has already passed the Labor & Public Employees Committee – is the one that I’m going to discuss.
Here are four areas to focus on:
- Eligible Employee: Currently, to be eligible for state FMLA leave, the employee had to work for 12 months and 1000 hours. The bill would change that to simply that the employee must have earned at least $2325 from one or more employers. Theoretically, you could start taking leave from Day 1 of a new job.
- Employers: Currently, only employers with 75 or more employees are covered. The bill would change that to one or more.
- Amount of Leave: Currently, employees get 16 weeks of leave over 2 years. The bill would change that to 12 weeks over one year (consistent with federal FMLA rules). One caveat: Employees could take two additional weeks due to a “serious health condition during a pregnancy that results in incapacitation”. No definition of incapacitation is given.
- Reason for Leave: Currently, eligible employees can take leave to care for spouses, children or parents with a serious health condition. The bill greatly expands that to siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren. It expands the definition of a parent to include in-laws and “individuals who stood in loco parentis to the eligible employee when the employee as a child”. If that wasn’t broad enough, employees could also take leave to care for “any other individual related by blood or whose close relationship with the employee is the equivalent of a family member”.
What’s the Takeaway?
If you’re an employer that has less than 50 employees, you’ve likely never had to deal with FMLA claims at the federal or state level. That may change very soon and dealing with the FMLA is not necessarily intuitive.
Suffice to say that this bill is a massive expansion of FMLA. Small employers are simply not equipped to deal with this and having employees out on leave — even from Day 1 — is going to present a significant challenge for employers, small ones in particular.
The bill is still being crafted and it’s quite possible that we’ll see changes as this progresses. But Governor Lamont has indicated support for a bill of this kind.
For now, employers should talk with their legislators if this is something of interest to them and share their concerns. And stay tuned. This is a bill that all businesses are going to want to follow closely.