Washington DC Maternity Leave

Washington, DC, Maternity Leave: Everything Expectant Parents Need to Know About the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act (UPLAA)

Workers in Washington, DC now have paid family and maternity leave. This is good news for both its residents as well as those who live nearby (like Maryland and Virginia), and allows them to still receive the benefit. The Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act, (UPLAA) made the program effective on July 1, 2020.

Washington DC Maternity Leave

How many weeks of paid maternity leave do I get?

The UPLAA allows for up to eight weeks parental leave (maternity or paternity leave) at a partial salary. This is to bond with a child. DC’s family law laws previously provided 16 weeks unpaid leave. Employees can take an additional eight weeks of unpaid time after having used up their eight weeks paid leave.

Who qualifies for the paid family leave?

Anyone who is a resident of any state, except DC, and works for a private sector firm that is based in DC, is eligible for the law.

Federal government employees based in Washington DC do not qualify for paid family leave. If you live in Bethesda and commute to DC, you are eligible for the DC paid family leave law. You cannot use the DC paid leave law if you don’t live in Bethesda and commute to Washington. The good news? As of October 1, 2020, federal employees the nation’s 2.1million workers have 12 weeks of paid parental leaves.

Remote workers for private-sector companies based in DC are eligible for this benefit, provided they do the same work at their home as they would in the office. Elissa Silverman (DC Councilmember) said that they would be considered employees of the DC office if they were to qualify.

The Government Family Leave Program Amendment Act of 2014 provides a paid alternative for DC government employees. All District Government employees have been able to take up to 8 weeks of paid family leave in a 12-month span, starting October 2014. This is to either care for a newborn child or a family member.

Part-time workers or those who worked for DC employers for 52 weeks prior to the law’s implementation are eligible. Even if your employment has been for a brief time, you are still eligible for paid family leave if you change between DC employers.

Self-employed workers have the right to opt into the law. You will be eligible for benefits within the first year. Opting in means that you must contribute quarterly equal to 0.62% of your self-employment income. This is the same percentage DC businesses pay for their employees.

How much will I be paid?

Workers who earn up to one and a half times the minimum wage or $46,800 per year in July 2020 are eligible for 90% of their wages while on leave. The benefit is equal to between 84% and 90% of your annual wages if you earn between $46,800- $61,700. The maximum benefit is $1,000 per week for workers who earn more than $61,700 per year.

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

The DC law allows for different amounts of time off. The new law allows for six weeks of family time to care for ill relatives and two weeks for medical leave to care about one’s serious health condition. The rates of payment are the same.

Can I take more than eight weeks off?

Yes, but with some caveats. The DC Family and Medical Leave Act provides 16 weeks of unpaid vacation for employees in the private sector who are located in DC and have more than 20 employees. It’s not paid leave but employees can keep their jobs and benefits. The DCFMLA allows you to take 16 weeks off. However, DC PFL only pays for eight weeks. You would receive two to six weeks of paid time if you were caring for someone else or your loved one.

Federal-government employees and people who reside in DC but work in other states are not covered by the DCFMLA. Federal-government employees and some employees in the private sector are covered by the national Family and Medical Leave Act. This law provides for 12 weeks of unpaid time to care for oneself or a family member, as well as a newborn baby. 

Do I need to use all my leave at once?

No, you do not. You can take the leave for as long as 12 months from the date of the qualifying event. You can only take eight weeks of leave in a 12-month time period. If you have eight weeks to give birth, you will not be eligible for additional weeks for illness.

What about my spouse?

Your spouse would be eligible for paid family leave if they meet the requirements and work for a DC private-sector company. However, one spouse that is eligible does not mean the other is eligible.

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

Fostering a child, adopting a child, or having a child through surrogacy are qualifying events.

Who is included with taking time off for family members?

You may take time off to care: for a biological, adoptive, or foster child; a stepson, stepdaughter; an individual to whom an eligible individual stands as a parent; an individual to whom an eligible individual is related by domestic marriage or domestic partnership; an adult-in-law; an adult stepparent; or any other person who was acting in loco parentis to an eligible person when that eligible individual was a child; an individual to whom an eligible person has a relationship by blood or marriage; a grandparent

How is the benefit paid for?

Employers pay for the plan. This means that no taxes are added to your paycheck unless you’re self-employed and have chosen to opt in. On July 1, 2019, private sector employers started paying an additional 0.62% employer payroll tax for each quarter. The tax rate for employees will not increase.

If my company pays for some portion of leave, can I combine it with UPLAA to receive 100 percent of my salary?

Your employer can decide. DC pays the first part of paid leave. However, employers have the option to “top-off” DC’s paid leaves option by paying additional time or salary.

Employers do not have to offer benefits other than paid leave. Tom Spiggle, a workplace lawyer, says that even if they provide benefits, they cannot replace what the leave provides. The act does not require employers to offer benefits other than paid leave.

Silverman says that “we weren’t trying to penalize the good employers.” We create a basic benefit that is accessible to all and employers who want to offer more would be encouraged to do so.

If my employer currently offers six weeks of paid leave, and DC now offers eight, can I combine the two?

DC pays the first eight weeks at full salary with a $1,000 weekly cap. Your employer may pay an additional fee for six weeks if you earn more than $1,000 per week. However, you would not be able to use all 14 weeks unless your employer has a policy that provides six additional weeks to go along with the eight DC weeks.

Do I have to take leave in full-week increments?

No. When you apply, you only have to indicate if you’re going to take the leave on a full-time, continuous schedule, or part-time, intermittent schedule. 

Is the leave pay taxed?

Yes. According to the website of the program, the benefits are tax-deductible and included in your gross income for the District and federal government. The District will send you a 1099-G form reporting all payments received in the past year. For information on the taxability of benefits, contact your state tax agency if you are not in the District.

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

It’The DC Office of Paid Family Leave can be applied online. You will need to submit proof for parental leave claims. This could include a birth certificate, adoption papers, or other documentation. The website provides a complete list of information and proof types that you can submit for each type. If your claim has been approved, you will be notified within 10 days. You’ll then receive your money in biweekly installments.

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

There is no lifetime limit; the annual cap for a 12-month period is $1,000 per week, eight weeks.

Do I still receive my benefits while I’m out?

Similar to FMLA, you can take time off, and your job, and benefits, are protected. Employers with less than 20 employees are not eligible for job protection.

Where do I go if I have more questions?

The DC Office of Paid Family Leave website has a lot of information. You can reach the office by email or by phone at (202) 899-3700.

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