If 2020 was a year full of twists and hairpin turns, 2021 is proving to be a worthy successor — at least when it comes to paid leave.

There are a lot of news articles out there but I thought a quick recap of where we are (and where we are expecting to go) would be helpful, particularly for those in the Constitution State.

For employers in Connecticut, the state paid leave program is now alive and active.  That means that: 1) You should be registered with the state if you are among the covered group (which is nearly everyone); 2) You should be withholding .5 percent of employee’s wages so that you can distribute to the state at the end of the first quarter; 3) You should likely be reviewing your policies and procedures when it comes to paid leave.

The rest of the state paid leave program (including changes to the FMLA provisions) will go into effect January 1, 2022, but if you are not complying with the rules this far, be sure to contact your attorney to get into compliance ASAP.  The complications will only get worse quickly.

On a national level, and as I noted previously, the FFCRA leave provisions related to COVID-19 expired on December 31, 2020 leaving covered employers (those with less than 500 employees) to have to consider extending such paid leave voluntarily through the first quarter of 2021.

But last night, President-Elect Joe Biden announced a massive new stimulus package, called the American Rescue Plan, that would add paid leave benefits back and expand them (among many many other details.)

I credit Jeff Nowak, who runs the excellent FMLA Insights blog, for the initial deep dive into this but here are the highlights:

  • Under the Biden plan, the paid leave would cover nearly all employers and remove the cap of 500 employees.
  • The exemption for first responders to be excluded from the paid leave provisions would be removed.
  • The amount of leave would increase to 14 weeks in many instances.
  • The paid part of the paid leave would increase to $1400 per week which would provide for full wage replacement for workers earning up to $73,000 per year.
  • The tax credit would remain for employers with under 500 employees but larger employers would not get to take such a tax credit.

You can view the entire package here.

While Congress is now in Democrat-controlled hands, there’s little doubt that this plan is going to be subject to the usual back-and-forth of negotiation so don’t be surprised to see further changes.

But suffice to say that paid leave is going to remain a big issue for employers to have to manage for 2021…and beyond.