By Sean Hughes, Connecticut Package Stores Association
Connecticut has been referred to as the “land of steady habits” by residents and interest groups alike that have sought to make legislative changes in the state. In the 2019 session, major changes were accomplished by those who had advocated for years to make changes surrounding paid leave legislation that they thought would make the state a better and more competitive state. Many of the surrounding states to Connecticut already had some form or another of paid family medical leave.
So, what exactly are the details of this new law that will affect a majority of Connecticut workers and all Connecticut businesses? The Connecticut Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) law, which takes effect in two stages, allows for employees to take up to 12 weeks of absence from their job over a 12-month period while being paid 95% of their average weekly wages if their medical condition or a family member’s condition qualifies as one of the listed conditions in the law. Payments to fund the program will begin being deducted from employees’ paychecks on Jan. 1, 2021. Employees will be able to begin taking paid leave under the law on Jan. 1, 2022, once financial reserves have been accumulated in the fund.
The medical conditions that qualify for Connecticut’s PFML are: birth of an employee’s child or adoption of a child, serious health condition of the employee or employee member’s family, organ or bone marrow donors, family members that are in the armed forces receiving a medical treatment, and medical or psychological procedures for victims of family violence.
The entire program is overseen and run by the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority. This group’s chief executive officer is appointed by the governor. The current CEO of the Paid Leave Authority is Andrea Barton-Reeves, who has spent many years in the public health industry. The board of directors of the Authority is appointed by the legislative leaders of the four different caucuses in the General Assembly. Each of the board members was appointed to the Authority based on their expertise in a certain industry so as to best assist the CEO in the implementation of the law.
The duty of the board of directors is to issue guidance to the CEO of the authority in how best to implement the program most effectively. The board of directors was also established to be a line of communication between the community and the CEO, since a program is only as effective as its ability to serve the people it was designed to assist.
The next step in the process to implement the new Paid Family Medical Program is to start collecting money for the program. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, every employee in Connecticut who is in the private sector will have one half of one percent (0.05%) deducted from their weekly paycheck. That money will be placed into the Paid Leave Fund. On Jan. 1, 2022, employees will be able to use those funds to take a paid leave of absence if they or a family member meet the medical qualifications for the Paid Leave program.
As an employer, there is more involvement than what the employee must do. Employers must register their business with the CT Paid Leave Authority. The employer will also be required to contribute .05% of their own weekly income to the paid leave program as well as withhold the .05% of each of their employee’s weekly wages. It is important to remember that the contributions are capped at .05% of the employee’s overall wage, and there is no employer match. The contributions from each employer will be submitted quarterly to the Paid Leave Authority. Those employers who do not forward the accurate amount of funds quarterly to the Authority will be penalized and still be required to submit the adequate amount to the Authority.
In order to be eligible for a leave of absence, employees must submit their paid leave requests to their employer as notification. The employee must then apply to the Paid Leave Authority for approval of paid leave benefits in order to receive income replacement while they are on leave. In some circumstances, it will be necessary for the employee, the employer and the Paid Leave Authority to communicate in order to establish the reason for the leave or to verify the duration and frequency of the leave.
It will take some time for employers and employees to adjust to the paid leave program. Any questions that you as an employee or employer have should be directed to the staff of the CT Paid Leave Authority. They will be the most knowledgeable on the topic and can assist in any needs that may arise. They can be reached at CTPaidLeave.org.
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