Connecticut paid family leave

Connecticut Maternity Leave: Everything Expectant Parents Need to Know About the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA)

In 2019, Connecticut was the seventh state (along with Washington D.C.), to adopt a Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA). Many residents of Connecticut will now be able to take advantage of paid family and medical leaves beginning January 1, 2022. Paid leave isn’t just for newborns, the employees can use the benefit for a number of reasons, including to care for their family members or for their own health.

Like other state paid leave benefits, eligibility is determined by where the person works, not their location. Residents who live in New York and New Jersey for work are not eligible. These workers might be eligible for New York and New Jersey’s respective paid family leave laws.

Maternity leave in CT in 2021-2022

Already, Connecticut workers are contributing to the plan. A 0.5% payroll tax will be added to Connecticut employees’ income starting January 2021. For the paid leave program, the payroll tax is set at the same income threshold that Social Security ($142 800 for 2021). As with all new policies, there are still details to be worked out. For example, when and how people can access the benefit. 

How many weeks of paid family leave do I get?

Connecticut’s Paid Family Leave Program offers 12 weeks of parental leave (maternity or paternity leave), paid at a partial salary, to bond with a newborn child. For birth mothers who have suffered a severe health condition during pregnancy, labor, or delivery, an additional two weeks may be eligible for paid leave.

Connecticut’s family law laws previously provided 16 weeks of paid leave over a period of two years. However, this was only available to employers with 75 or more employees and required that an employee has worked at most 1,250 hours per year. The program was amended to link with the paid leaves benefit. Nearly all employees in the private sector and some public employees are eligible for paid leave. Williamson stated that the paid leave benefit will be available to a wider range of employees.

The new law doesn’t allow for additional leave after the paid leave has expired.

Who qualifies for the paid family leave?

Individuals who are employed and working in Connecticut are eligible for paid family leave. This includes those who are part-time or self-employed. It does not matter what company size. There are a few exceptions. These include teachers, federal employees, and Board of Education members.

Eligibility is not dependent on residency. The benefit is not available to people who live in Connecticut but work elsewhere. Residents of Connecticut who work in another state are not eligible for the benefit, as the bill is entirely funded by payroll tax contributions from employees.

An employee must have earned approximately $2,300 during the last year while working in Connecticut. The total amount can be obtained through multiple jobs with different durations to be eligible for the paid-leave benefit. This is in contrast to other paid leave laws such as FMLA which require that an employee works for a specific amount of time at one job. Williamson explained that Connecticut’s paid-leave laws are similar to those for unemployment and can be used to cover more people who change employers within a year.

Who does NOT qualify for paid leave in Connecticut?

Federal employees are not eligible for Connecticut paid family leave. This is the same across all paid leave programs. Unionized state and municipal employees do not qualify. However, unions will be able to opt-in and include paid family leave in the bargaining process.

An unusual arrangement is made for educators. Employees of local and regional boards of education, and employees of private and parochial schools (nonpublic elementary and secondary schools) are not eligible to access the state’s paid leaves program. Public school employees will be able to take advantage of the paid leave benefits through their union’s collective bargaining process.

Although this exemption does not apply to parochial and private schools, it is common. It predates the paid-leave bill because it was part of Connecticut’s original unpaid leave policy that was passed in 1996. According to one expert familiar with the discussions, advocates hope to make this exclusion permanent.

How much will I be paid?

Connecticut’s wage replacement policy for low-income workers is generous in its paid family leave policy. Under the state’s paid leaves program, employees who earn the equivalent of 40 hours per week of the minimum wage will be eligible for 95% of their weekly earnings. Earnings above the 40 hour/minimum wage threshold will be paid at 60%. The Connecticut minimum wage cap is 60 times.

Connecticut is increasing the state minimum wage to $13 in 2021 with two additional increases to $15 and $14 in 2022.

Workers earning a minimum wage of $494 per week (or 40x the minimum wage) will receive a weekly benefit equal to $494 in January 2022. This amount will increase to $532 on July 1, 20,22 and $570 on May 1, 2023. The maximum benefit will equal 60 times the minimum wage and will be $780 per week in January 2022. It will increase to $840 on June 1, 2022, and $900 by June 1, 2023.

This is the maximum an employee can get under state law. However, it does not include employer-provided benefit benefits that may offer full, salaried paid leaves for employees.

Can I take paid family leave for something other than a new baby?

Yes, you can take 12 weeks of paid leave to help with illness recovery, caring for a loved one who is sick, or being an organ donor or marrow donor.

Eligible family members include those who are called to active duty, to provide care for an injured military member, and any other exigencies.

Connecticut’s Paid Family Leave law provides 12 days of paid leave if you are affected by family violence. You can seek medical or psychological treatment, seek assistance from victim services organizations, relocate, or participate in any civil or penal proceeding related to family violence.

Can I take more than 12 weeks off?

Yes, two additional weeks are available for pregnancy complications, but this is only available to women giving birth. (A spouse, adoptive parent or child will not be eligible.

Employers may offer additional time to employees that can be used in conjunction with the state benefit. However, employers cannot force employees to use all their paid time before they use the benefit. Employees can retain two weeks of paid time to be used when they return from paid family leave, as stated in the law.

Do I need to use all my leave at once?

No, you do not. The leave is granted for adoptions, foster children and new babies up to 12 months following the qualifying event. Williamson said that leave for other qualifying needs is tied to the time you use it. Paid leave can be granted for consecutive days or weeks. However, it may also be available for intermittent time off in certain circumstances.

What about my spouse?

Your spouse would be eligible if they meet the eligibility criteria. However, one spouse eligible does not automatically mean the other is.

What if I foster, adopt or use a surrogate? Are those qualifying events?

Yes, all that’s said above is a qualifying event for the 12 weeks of paid leave.

Who is included with taking time off for family members?

Connecticut law recognizes that many people can be considered family members and could need care from an employee. Family members can be a spouse, sibling, son or daughter, grandparent, grandchild, or parent. Or, an individual related by blood or affinity to the employee and whose close relationship with the employee is equivalent to those family relationships.

How is the benefit paid for?

Contrary to other paid family benefits, Connecticut’s paid leave law is funded through employee payroll deductions. This is similar to California and Rhode Island. The program in Washington D.C. was funded exclusively by employer payroll contributions. Other states, like New York and New Jersey, use a hybrid model. Beginning January 1, 2021, employees will be able to deduct up to 0.5% of their wages. This is in addition to the Social Security contribution base at $142,800 (in 2020).

Don’t worry, you will not see a tax increase.

If my company pays for some portion of leave, can the state law cover the rest up to 100 percent of my salary?

The details of how state benefits and employer benefits mix are still being worked out. Employers would likely be eligible for some state-supported compensation to their existing paid leave benefits. This is similar to what has happened in other states with paid family leave.

“Every state with paid leave programs has found a way [to] find the right relationship between private employer benefits and state benefits. Williamson said that we are still 11 months from the end, and some pieces of how this will work still need to be found.

Is the leave pay taxed?

Paid family leave will be subject to the same tax as income. The statute allows the benefit recipient to receive benefit payments with or without tax withholding. 

What do I have to do to get the money? How am I paid?

Some of the processes are still being developed because the benefits will not start until 2022.

Barton Reeves stated that the system is being developed. The Insurance Authority issued an RFP for administration, claims payments. More information will be available about the systems that will allow employees to file claims and receive benefits.

Are there any monetary caps on the benefit annually or during one’s lifetime?

There is no lifetime cap. The reimbursement benefit is limited to 60 weeks at the minimum wage.

The maximum benefit at 60x the minimum wage will be $780 per week in January 2022. This figure will increase to $840 on July 1, 20,22 and $900 on June 1, 2023. As the state minimum wage rises, the benefits will be increased.

Do I still receive my benefits and job protection while I’m out?

You can take time off as long as you have job protection. However, Connecticut’s paid law doesn’t explicitly protect your health insurance. A worker may be entitled to their health insurance under another law such as the federal FMLA or a collective agreement. Workers who are covered by both Connecticut’s federal FMLA or Connecticut’s new law will usually be able to take time off.

It is important to note that Connecticut’s paid-leave program has a wider range of eligibility requirements and is more flexible than FMLA. Therefore, it is possible for an employee to be eligible for state-paid leave but not for federal FMLA.

What about self-employed and freelancers, do they qualify for paid leave?

Yes! If there is a qualifying reason, there is no time limit for enrolling. It only requires you to pay into the system for at least three years.

How has COVID-19 changed anything on the Connecticut Paid Family Leave plan?

Implementation dates for the program have not been changed by COVID-19. They are aware that a lot of lives have been changed forever by this pandemic. There are workers who will be experiencing lasting health effects, they will need additional paid leave, or have ongoing caregiving needs for someone who is suffering.

Where do I go if I have more questions?

The Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Authority, which is the agency responsible for implementing the paid-leave policy, has a website that provides more information and allows you to submit a query.

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