On June 25, 2019, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed into law the Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (CT PMFL). Funded entirely by employees through payroll deductions, the state program will offer up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave in a 12-month period for covered employees, with an additional two weeks related to a pregnancy incapacity. Here is a timeline of key dates as well as an overview of the CT PFML law.
Covered Employers: All private employers with one or more CT employees. Federal, state, and local governments generally are not covered unless they have employees who meet the definition of a “covered public employee.”
Covered Employees: Employees are covered by this law if they earn at least $2,325 in subject earnings during the employee’s highest-earning quarter within the defined base period and are presently employed by a covered employer or have been so employed in the previous 12 weeks. Self-employed individuals and sole proprietors who are CT residents may elect to enroll in the program.
Reasons for Leave: Paid family and medical leave benefits may be used for the following reasons:
- Birth of the employee’s child;
- Placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care;
- Employee’s own serious health condition;
- To care for a family member with a serious health condition;
- To serve as an organ or bone marrow donor;
- Because of any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the employee is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty in the Armed Forces;
- To care for a covered member of the armed forces who incurred a serious injury or illness in the line of duty; or
- For purposes permitted under Connecticut’s Family Violence leave law.
Family Member Definition: A family member is defined to include:
- Sibling (related by blood, marriage, adoption or foster care placement)
- Son or daughter (biological, adopted, foster, stepchild, legal ward, and an individual to whom the employee stood in loco parentis when the individual was a child (Note: no age limit on child)
- Grandparent (related by blood, marriage, adoption or foster care)
- Grandchild (related by blood, marriage, adoption or foster care)
- Parent (biological, adoptive, foster, stepparent, in-law, legal guardian of an eligible employee or employee’s spouse, individual who stood in loco parentis to an eligible employee)
- An individual related to the employee by blood or affinity whose close association the employee shows to be the equivalent of those family relationships. (NOTE: No later than January 1, 2022, the state will establish guidelines regarding factors to be considered when determining whether an individual’s close association with an employee is the equivalent of a family member.)
Duration of Leave: Covered employees are entitled to paid leave for up to 12 weeks in any 12-month period taken for one or more of the reasons listed above. An additional two weeks of paid leave may be taken for an employee’s serious health condition due to incapacitation that occurs during a pregnancy. (NOTE: It is unclear whether the paid leave available to employees who care for a covered military member with a serious injury or illness is limited to 12 weeks of wage replacement or if the entire 26 weeks of leave permitted for that purpose is paid.)
If two spouses work for the same employer, each spouse is eligible for up to 12 weeks of compensation in any 12-month period. (NOTE: It is unclear as to whether spouses working for the same employer are each entitled to 12 weeks of job protection.)
Contributions: Contributions begin January 1, 2021, and are funded entirely by employees (no employer contribution). The contribution rate will be determined by the state, up to a maximum of 0.5% of employees’ wages, capped at the Social Security income limit. The contribution rate will be adjusted annually and announced each November 1, with the new rate effective the following January 1.
Benefit Amount: Benefits will be available beginning January 1, 2022. The weekly benefit amount will be:
- 95% of an employee’s base weekly earnings, up to 40 times the state minimum wage and
- 60% of an employee’s base weekly earnings above that level.
- Total weekly benefits are capped at 60 times the state minimum wage (estimated to be about $780/week in January 2022).
Employees may elect to have income tax withheld from their paid leave benefits. Covered employees may not receive CT PFML at the same time that they receive benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation or unemployment compensation statutes, or any other state or federal program that provides wage replacement. Employees may, however, receive CT PFML concurrently with any employer-provided benefits as long as the total compensation received does not exceed the employee’s regular rate of compensation.
Private Plans: Employers may apply for state approval of a private plan that meets their obligations under CT PFML. A private plan must provide all of the same rights, protections, and benefits established in the CT PMFL statute. A private plan also must meet with the following criteria:
- Be approved by a majority vote of the employer’s employees; and
- If the private plan is in the form of self-insurance, the employer must provide a bond; or
- If the plan provides for insurance, the forms of the policy must be issued by an approved insurer and approved by Connecticut’s Insurance Commissioner.
Employer Notice Requirements: Beginning July 1, 2022, employers must provide written notice at the time of hiring and annually thereafter to each employee of the CT PFML rights and benefits.
Employee Notice Requirements: For foreseeable leaves, employees must provide at least 30 days’ notice to their employer. For unforeseeable leaves, employees must provide notice as soon as practicable.
Certification: Employers may require that leave based on a serious health condition of either the employee or an employee’s family member be supported by certification from a health care provider. The certification must provide:
- The date on which the serious health condition began;
- The probable duration of the condition;
- The appropriate medical facts regarding the condition, as known by the health care provider;
- If leave is for the employee’s own serious health condition:
- a statement that the employee is unable to perform the functions of the employee’s position; and
- if leave is to be intermittent or on a reduced leave schedule, a statement of the medical necessity of the intermittent leave/reduced leave schedule and the expected duration of such intermittent leave/reduced leave schedule;
- If leave is for care of a family member with a serious health condition;
- a statement that the employee is needed to care for the family member and an estimate of the amount of time that the employee needs to provide care; and
- if leave, for this reason, is to be intermittent or on a reduced leave schedule, a statement that the employee’s intermittent/reduced leave schedule is necessary for the care of the family member or will assist in their recovery, and the expected duration and schedule of the intermittent/reduced leave schedule.
- If leave is for intermittent leave or leave on a reduced leave schedule for planned medical treatment, the dates on which treatment is expected to be given and the duration of the treatment; and
- If leave is for the care of a covered armed forces member and requires the employee to take intermittent leave or reduced schedule leave, a statement that the intermittent/reduced schedule leave is necessary for the care of the armed services member and the expected duration and schedule of the intermittent/reduced schedule leave.
A second (and third) opinion may be sought, at the employer’s expense, if an employer has reason to doubt the validity of a medical certification form.
Recertifications generally may be obtained on a reasonable basis, no more than once every 30 days. The employer must pay for any recertification that is not covered by the employee’s health insurance.
Changes to Existing CT Unpaid FML Statute: Currently, CT law provides for unpaid, job-protected leaves of absence for covered reasons for up to 16 weeks in a 24-month period for eligible employees who work for an employer with 75 or more employees. Effective January 1, 2022 (when benefits under the CT paid leave begin), Connecticut’s unpaid FML is largely repealed and replaced by amendments contained in the new CT PFML law. Consequently, the unpaid CT leave law will continue to exist but will be expanded to reflect provisions that are consistent with the new paid leave law, including application to employers with one or more CT employees, expansion of covered family members, reduction of employee eligibility requirements, and some alignment of unpaid leave to the leave entitlement under CT PFML.
Coordination with the FMLA: CT PMFL will run concurrently with leave taken under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when an employee is eligible for both.
What Employers Must Do Now: Employers with CT employees will need to prepare to comply with the new law upon its effective date(s). Employers should be thinking about:
- Do they want to seek approval of a private plan or go with the state-administered plan?
- Will any policies, handbooks, or HR procedures need to be updated to include the new CT paid leave benefits?
- What training will need to be provided to HR, supervisors, payroll, etc., on how to manage the new benefits and leave, especially as they may interact with existing leaves and benefits?
What Reed Group Is Doing: Employers who use Reed Group’s leave management services or software should know that we will be ready when the CT PFML law goes into effect and we will keep you informed along the way. Although we will need to wait for the regulations on this law to be published, we anticipate that ReedGroup would administer private plans for employers who have sought approval of their plans. In addition, prior to the law’s effective date, ReedGroup will update notifications, literature, and other forms that go out to CT employees to provide information about the state-administered plan, as applicable. We will provide more information about our product and service offerings as new rules and regulations are established.