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New Paid Family Leave Law Enacted
Connecticut has introduced a paid family leave program after Governor Ned Lamont signed the Paid Family and Medical Leave (“CPFML”) Act. CPFML contribution collection commences on January 1, 2021, and covered employees will start receiving CPFML benefits on January 1, 2022. Governor Lamont signed the Act into law on June 25, 2019.
Not only does the CPFML Act creates a new paid leave program, in addition, but the CPFML also amends the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (“CFMLA”), extending the reasons employees may take leave and the amount of leave available to employees.
The CPFML Act will give wage replacement benefits up to a maximum of 14 weeks depending on the reason for the absence. The CFMLA has been amended to allow a similar 14-week maximum potential leave in a 12-month period – a more generous allotment than the 16 weeks in a 24-month period that the CFMLA currently permits.
Covered Employers – “Employer” is defined as any entity that employs one or more employees. Thus, CPFML will affect virtually all private employers in Connecticut. As of January 1, 2022, “employer” under the CFMLA will also be expanded to entities with one or more employees which is a significant change from the law’s current 75-employee threshold.
Covered Employees – To be considered a covered employee for CPFML purposes, an employee must have earned at least $2,325 during the employee’s highest-earning quarter within the base period and meet any of the following conditions:
- Is presently employed;
- Was employed by the employer within the previous 12 weeks; or
- Is self-employed or a sole proprietor and Connecticut resident enrolled in CPFML.
To be eligible for leave under the revised CFMLA, effective January 1, 2022, an employee must have been employed for at least three months by the employer from whom leave is requested. To be qualified under the current CFMLA, an employee must be employed for 12 months and have completed 1,000 hours of service before the first day of leave. Thus, as of January 1, 2022, the CFMLA will apply to a much larger number of employees than it does today.
Amount and Reasons for Leave
The CPFML Act will provide 12 weeks of CPFML benefits in a 12-month period for eligible employees who are absent for one of the below-covered reasons. Importantly, where an employee is absent due to a serious health condition resulting in incapacitation that occurs during pregnancy, she may be entitled to two additional weeks of CPFML benefits (i.e., for a total of 14 weeks in a 12-month period). Employees can receive CPFML benefits for the following reasons:
- To care for a family member of the employee with a serious health condition;
- For the employee’s own serious health condition;
- To bond with a newly born, adopted, or fostered child;
- To serve as an organ or bone marrow donor;
- In connection with a qualifying military exigency of the spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the employee, in accordance with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”);
- Military caregiver leave;5 or
- Certain absences related to the employee’s status as a victim of family violence.
The first six bullet points above also are covered reasons under the CFMLA. However, the final bullet point dealing with absences related to family violence incidents is only covered under the CPFML.
Covered Family Members
Effective January 1, 2022, the definition of “family member” under both the CPFML and CFMLA will include a (1) spouse, (2) son or daughter, (3) parent, (4) parent-in-law, (5) sibling, (6) grandchild, (7) grandparent, or (8) an individual related to the employee by blood or whose close association to the employee is the equivalent of those family relationships.
Newly covered family members, in contrast to covered family members under the current CMFLA, are in bold. These relatives may be related by blood, marriage, adoption, and foster relationships. In addition, step-parents and legal guardians who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a child are considered “family members” under the CPFML Act.
The CPFML program will be funded through employee payroll deductions. The CPFML Act imposes an obligation on employers to “deduct and withhold” the necessary amounts from employee wages, so at this time, it appears that employers do not contribute to the PFML program.
Substitution of Employer-Provided Paid Leave
Usually, when an employee is absent for a covered reason (as set forth above), an employer may require, or the employee may choose, to substitute certain forms of accrued paid time off (depending on the nature of the absence) for any part of the 12-week (or, in the case of military caregiver leave, 26-week) period. However, this right is not unlimited, as the amendment allows employees to retain at least two weeks of paid time off in their banks.
Notice to Employees
As of July 1, 2022, the CPFML will require employers to distribute written notice, at the time of hire, and each year thereafter, to employees concerning certain rights under the CPFML. As of now, the CPFML does not impose any specific corresponding posting obligation on employers.