Late Friday, the House passed the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act bill that passed the Senate earlier in May. Governor Lamont has indicated that he will sign the measure. As such, big changes are coming, though some of the biggest changes are are still a few years off.
A good portion of the (very long) bill concerns the set up and running of a new family leave insurance program that will provide wage replacement for employees who take leave. I’m not going to recap that.
Similarly, there’s a lot on the benefit programs that can be established by employers and the state. Generally, employees who take FMLA leave will get some type of wage replacement for up to 12 weeks (with two additional weeks of benefits for a serious health condition that results in incapacitation during pregnancy.) Employers can also provide benefits through a private plan, which must provide their employees with at least the same level of benefits, under the same conditions and employee costs, as the new insurance program.
But for employers that have been running FMLA leaves in Connecticut (or, for that matter, NOT running FMLA leaves because it didn’t apply to them), the biggest set of changes is yet to come.
Starting January 1, 2022, FMLA will now apply to all private sector employers with at least one employee; currently, only employers with 75 or more employees are covered (though federal FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more employees).
Here are just some of the other major changes:
- Currently, employees need at least 12 months and 1000 work hours to be eligible. Under the new measure, employees who have just three months of employment with no minimum requirement for hours worked will be eligible.
- Currently, employees could receive a maximum of 16 weeks of leave over 24 months. Under the new bill, employees are eligible for 12 weeks of a leave over a 12 month period with an additional two weeks due to a serious health condition that results in incapacitation during pregnancy.
- Currently, employers can require an employee taking leave to use employer-provided paid leave; the bill allows an employees to maintain at least two weeks of paid leave.
- Currently, employees can only take FMLA leave to care for a serious health condition of a spouse, child, or parent. The new bill expands the family members to include the employee’s siblings, parent-in-laws, grandparents, grandchildren, 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”. The Department of Labor will be charged with coming up with regulations on that aspect.
Employers have some time to incorporate these provisions into their workplace. But there’s little doubt that this bill is going to be a brand new world for employers who have never had to manage FMLA claims. Asking for health care certifications — and more — is going to be a monumental challenge for small employers. While there’s over 30 months to get ready, my early guess is that there will still be loads of employers who are unprepared for this.
Between now and then, of course, we’ll have lots to share. For now, employers should just be aware — Paid FMLA leave, and changes to FMLA leave, are coming.