Federal law provides job security and paid leave to eligible employees who wish to take leave following the birth or adoption of a child. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, commonly known as FMLA, provides up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid, job protected leave per year and requires that group benefits be maintained during the leave. The leave can be based on childbirth, adoption, care of an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or a personal serious health condition. Eligible employees, which includes both men and women, are entitled to twelve (12) workweeks of leave in a twelve (12) month period for the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of the child’s birth. Employers are subject to FMLA if they have employed at least fifty (50) employees during twenty (20) or more calendar workweeks in the current or the preceding calendar year. Employees are eligible under the FMLA if they have worked for a covered employer for at least twelve (12) months that need not be consecutive, have worked at least 1,250 hours during the twelve (12) months preceding the start of leave, and are employed at a worksite where the employer employs at least fifty (50) employees within a seventy-five (75) mile radius.
Currently, the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act of 1990 (CT FMLA) provides certain individuals employed at employers with at least seventy-five (75) employees with the right to take up to sixteen (16) weeks off from work per twenty-four (24) month period and retain their health benefits during their time off to care for themselves, a child, a parent (including in-laws), or a spouse (including civil unions) with a serious health condition. Such leave is unpaid. Under current law, in order to be eligible for such leave, an employee must, at the time the leave begins, have: (1) worked for the employer for a total of twelve (12) or more months; and (2) worked for at least 1,000 hours during the twelve (12) months preceding the leave.
Given the size requirements set forth in both the federal and state statutes, many Connecticut employees have found themselves ineligible for family leave. Even those who are eligible to take time off are often discouraged due to the financial ramifications of losing their pay during their leave. This is about to change in Connecticut. On June 25, 2019, Governor Ned Lamont signed the Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) into law. Effective January 1, 2022, Connecticut employees, including those working at small employers, will be eligible for up to twelve (12) weeks of paid (subject to certain limitations) leave for the birth, adoption or fostering of a new child, to care for a family member or loved one with a serious health condition, to deal with their own illness, to serve as an organ or bone marrow donor or as the result of an emergency related to active military duty or a call to active military duty of a spouse, child or parent of the employee. The PFML program also provides an additional two (2) weeks for those incapacitated as a result of a complicated pregnancy. This new law will apply to all employers who have at least one (1) employee. Unionized state employees and all municipal employees would be exempt from participation in the PFML program, while non-union state employees will have to participate.
To fund the statewide benefit, beginning on January 1, 2021, Connecticut workers will pay an additional tax of one-half percent (0.5%) on their wages. Benefits will cover up to ninety-five percent (95%) of wages on a sliding scale, capped at $900 a week. This development makes Connecticut’s paid family leave the most generous paid family leave law in the U.S. Employees will be eligible if they have worked for their employer for at least three (3) months immediately preceding their request for leave with no minimum requirement for hours worked.