Paid family and medical leave (PFML) is generally intended to allow employees time away from work when they are seriously ill or to care for a family member or bond with a new child. Via the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the US temporarily mandated paid leave for COVID-related reasons. However, the paid leave mandate ended in December 2020, and currently the US, unlike nearly all other industrialized nations, does not have national standards on paid family or medical leave. Legislation that would establish a permanent federal paid family and medical leave program has been introduced over the years but, as of July 2021, has yet to become law.

Due to the lack of paid leave at the federal level, several states have attempted to bridge the gap by enacting their own paid family and/or medical leave laws, including:

  • California
  • Connecticut (benefits begin 1/1 2022)
  • Colorado (benefits begin 1/1/2024)
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii (employee disability only)
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire (coverage must be in place by 1/1/2023)
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington State
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 Jurisdictions with mandatory temporary disability insurance only

 Jurisdictions with PFMLI programs

 States with pending PFML legislation or prior unsuccessful initiatives

In addition, many employers offer some version of paid time off for employees to care for themselves or family members. The terminology and corresponding acronyms describing this leave type are not consistent across state programs and individual company policies, which can cause confusion among both employees and employers.

“Family caregiver leave,” “family leave insurance (FLI),” “temporary disability insurance (TDI),” “paid parental leave (PPL),” and “state disability insurance (SDI),” are a just a handful of the terms you might hear when discussing paid family and medical leave. Short- and long-term disability policies and programs are also forms of paid leave that some employers and state-mandated programs offer to employees who are unable to work due to a disability. Together, paid family and medical leave are also referred to as “family and medical leave insurance” (FMLI).

PFML programs can be designed in a variety of ways. Typically, a state-mandated plan operates like an insurance program–covered employees pay into the program (sometimes employers also contribute, sometimes not), and when an employee needs to take leave to care for themselves or a family member, they  are able to draw on the policy’s benefits that provide partial wage replacement during the leave. TDI/SDI is funded in a similar way. A company-provided program not governed by state or municipal regulations could also mirror an insurance-policy structure, or it could be fully funded by an employer. Details such as employer responsibilities, covered individuals, eligibility reasons, coverage periods, and job protection vary by employer and from state to state.

Paid Family & Medical Leave 101

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PFML | FMLA | ADA | Uncommon Leave Types