On April 7, 2017, the D.C. Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016 (“D.C. Paid Family Leave law”) became effective upon the expiration of Congress’s 30-day review period. The new law establishes a paid family leave program administered through the District of Columbia. It does not provide any additional leave or job protection beyond the existing D.C. Family and Medical Leave Act (D.C. FMLA); however, it does impose upon employers new notice requirements. The law contains the following provisions:

Covered employer: All private employers who are required to pay unemployment insurance on behalf of employees are covered.

Eligible employee: Employees are eligible if they work for a covered employer, and:

  • the employee spends more than 50% of his or her work time for the employer working in D.C.; or
  • the employment for the employer is based in D.C. and the employee regularly spends a substantial amount of his or her work time for that employer in D.C. and not more than 50% of his or her work time for the employer in another jurisdiction.
  • The employee is eligible for benefits if the employee has met one of the above two requirements during some or all of the 52 calendar weeks immediately preceding the qualifying event for which paid leave is being taken.

Note: Self-employed individuals may opt into the program.

Reasons for Leave: Employees may receive paid leave for the following reasons:

  • Qualifying family leave: in order to provide care or companionship to a family member because of the diagnosis or occurrence of a serious health condition
  • Qualifying medical leave: the diagnosis or occurrence of a serious health condition of the employee
  • Qualifying parental leave: events, including bonding, associated with:
    • the birth of a child;
    • the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care; or
    • the placement of a child with the employee for whom the employee legally assumes and discharges parental responsibility.

Amount of Benefits

  • Family leave: maximum of six workweeks within a 52-workweek period
  • Medical leave: maximum of two workweeks within a 52-workweek period
  • Parental leave: maximum of eight workweeks within a 52-workweek period

Note: Intermittent leave benefits are permitted, and medical, family, and parental leave benefits for partial weeks of leave will be prorated.

Covered family member includes:

  • Child: a biological, adopted, or foster son or daughter, a stepson or stepdaughter, a legal ward, a son or daughter of a domestic partner, or a person to whom an employee stands in loco parentis
  • Parent: a biological, foster, or adoptive parent, a parent-in-law, a stepparent, a legal guardian, or other person who stood in loco parentis to an employee when the employee was a child
  • Domestic partner or spouse
  • Grandparent
  • Sibling

Notice Provisions:

Employer Notice: Each covered employer is required to, at the time of hiring and annually thereafter, and at the time the covered employer is aware that the leave is needed, provide notice to each eligible employee. Each covered employer must also post and maintain the notice in a conspicuous place in English and in all languages in which the Mayor has published the notice. The Mayor will provide the form of the notice, and it will contain the following information:

  • the employee’s right to paid-leave benefits under the law and the terms under which such leave may be used;
  • that retaliation by the covered employer against the employee for requesting, applying for, or using paid-leave benefits is prohibited;
  • that an employee who works for a covered employer with fewer than 20 employees is not entitled to job protection if he or she decides to take paid leave pursuant to this act; and
  • that the employee has a right to file a complaint and the procedures established by the Mayor for filing a complaint.

Employee Notice: To the extent practicable, an employee must provide written notice to the employer of the need for the use of paid-leave benefits before taking leave. The notice must include a reason for the absence and the expected duration of the paid leave:

  • If the paid leave is foreseeable, the written notice must be provided at least 10 days, or as early as possible, in advance of the paid leave.
  • If the paid leave is unforeseeable, a notification, either oral or written, must be provided before the start of the work shift for which the paid leave is being used.
  • In the case of an emergency, the employee, or another individual on behalf of the employee, must notify the employer, either orally or in writing, within 48 hours of the emergency occurring.

Coordination With Other Leaves:

  • If paid leave taken pursuant to the law also qualifies as FMLA or D.C. FMLA leave, it will run concurrently with leave taken under the FMLA or D.C. FMLA.
  • The D.C. Paid Family Leave law does not provide job protection beyond that to which an individual is entitled under the D.C. FMLA.
  • An employer can opt to provide an employee with leave benefits in addition to those provided by the D.C. Paid Family Leave law, but that does not exempt the employer from making contributions or an employee from receiving benefits pursuant to the D.C. Paid Family Leave law.
  • An employee receiving benefits pursuant to the D.C. Unemployment Compensation Amendment Act is not eligible to receive benefits under the D.C. Paid Family Leave law.
  • If an employee is receiving long-term disability payments, the employee is not eligible to receive the benefits under the D.C. Paid Family Leave law.

Funding and Benefits: The D.C. Paid Family Leave program is funded by employer contributions of 0.62% of the wages of its employees. Contributions begin by July 1, 2019. The law provides that within 180 days of the effective date of the law (April 7, 2017), the Mayor must issue rules to implement the law.

The law contains a calculation method for determining the amount of benefits, depending on whether the employee earns more or less than 150% of minimum wage multiplied by 40. For those making equal to or less than that amount, benefits equal 90% of the employee’s weekly wage.  For those making more than that, the employee receives 90% of 150% of minimum wage multiplied by 40, plus 50% of the amount that the employee’s weekly wage exceeds 150% of minimum wage multiplied by 40 (but benefits may not exceed the maximum weekly benefit amount).

Note: The law also contains a provision that clarifies that a “foster child” is a covered relationship under the D.C. FMLA.

What Employers Must Do Now

Employers in the District of Columbia should be watchful for regulations that will be issued by the Mayor to implement the D.C. Paid Family Leave law, including the model notice form that employers will be required to add to their existing notifications. Employers should be prepared to update their notifications accordingly.

What ReedGroup Is Doing 

ReedGroup administers the existing D.C. FMLA law, and the paid family leave law does not provide any additional leave rights. ReedGroup will be updating its notifications to include the new notice to be issued by the Mayor, which will apply when the D.C. FMLA leave reasons coincide with D.C. Paid Family Leave reasons.

Did you know? ReedGroup tracks pending laws that affect leave of absence in its product  Leave Advisor™ Pending Legislation. We provide detailed resources, including examples and hard-to-solve problems in Leave Advisor. Concerned about navigating your way through complex state leave legislation? ReedGroup provides full-service leave administration for clients including both outsourcing and software solurtions with complex and/or multi-state employee populations. Check out our website for more information.

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