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Connecticut Paid Leave Authority Ramps Up Informational Sessions as Benefits Debut Approaches

  • Connecticut’s paid family and medical leave program will begin accepting applications from eligible employees next month
  • The Connecticut Paid Leave Authority is offering nearly two dozen webinars before the end of the year to help familiarize businesses with the program and their obligations
  • Employers have been required to make payroll deductions to fund the program since the start of the year, and will soon be asked to provide verification information for employees seeking leave

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

As the issue of paid family and medical leave is debated on a national stage, Connecticut is preparing to roll out its own paid leave program next year. To help businesses prepare for this newly implemented benefit, the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority is ramping up its outreach efforts to educate both employers and employees on the issue.

Employees are asked to submit applications for income replacement benefits at least 30 days in advance of the date they anticipate they will start their leave. The Connecticut Paid Leave Authority will begin accepting applications on Dec. 1 for leave periods that will begin on or after Jan. 1, 2022, when benefit payments for approved applications will begin.

The Connecticut Paid Leave Authority began introducing more webinars on the program in September, and has scheduled 22 of these sessions from today through the end of the year. This outreach is being conducted in part to assist small businesses, who were previously not subject to employee leave requirements.

The webinars offer guidance to employers on what responsibilities they have under the state paid leave program and how they can implement the program’s provisions in their business. They also update employees on the benefits available to them under the program.

How the program works

Connecticut’s state leave policy previously applied only to businesses with at least 75 employees, offering up to 16 weeks of leave that could be unpaid. The new program cuts the leave period to 12 weeks, applies to all employers with at least one employee, and provides compensation to any employees who have met certain earned wage thresholds.

Benefits are also available to sole proprietors and self-employed Connecticut residents who opt into the program. Businesses can be exempted from participation if they can demonstrate that they offer comparable paid leave benefits through a private plan.

The program is funded through a 0.5 percent deduction on employee payrolls. Eligible employers were required to begin withholding these funds on Jan. 1 of this year.

Different pay scales are provided based on an employee’s earnings. If their wages are less than or equal to the Connecticut minimum wage multiplied by 40, their weekly benefit rate while on paid leave will be 95 percent of their average weekly wage. Due to scheduled increases in the state’s minimum wage, the measure for the 40 times multiplier will start at $520 a week when the program begins, increase to $560 on July 1, 2022, and again to $600 on June 1, 2023.

If an employee’s wages wages exceed the Connecticut minimum wage multiplied by 40, their weekly benefit rate will be 95 percent of the Connecticut minimum wage multiplied by 40 plus 60 percent of the amount their average weekly wage exceeds the Connecticut minimum wage multiplied by 40.

The weekly benefit rate is capped at 60 times the Connecticut minimum wage. This will be limited to $780 a week at the start of the program, rising to $840 on July 1, 2022 and $900 on June 1, 2023.

Leave does not need to be taken all at once. An employee can take blocks of time off, set up a reduced work schedule, or periodically draw on the benefits for purposes such as attending a doctor’s appointment.

Which employees are eligible

Employees are eligible for Connecticut’s paid family and medical leave program if they earned wages of at least $2,325 in the highest quarter of the first four of the five most recently completed quarters. The wages can include salary or hourly pay as well as vacation or holiday pay, tips, commissions, severance pay, and the value of any “in-kind” payments.

In addition, employees must be currently employed or have been employed within the last 12 weeks. Sole proprietors and self-employed individuals enrolled in with the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority are also eligible.

Paid leave is available for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Care for a newborn or children joining a family via adoption or foster care
  • Treatment or recovery from a serious health condition requiring care, or care for a family member with such a condition; this can include organ or bone marrow donation
  • Time to receive medical or psychological care, get assistance from a victim services organization, relocate, or participate in any civil or criminal proceedings due to family violence
  • Care for a family member who was injured while on active duty, or to address specific qualifying exigencies connected with a family member’s overseas military service
  • Time to address qualifying exigencies related to an active call to duty

While the typical program offers up to 12 weeks of paid leave, employees can receive two additional weeks for a serious health condition resulting in incapacitation occurs during pregnancy.

The employer’s role

To date, employers have been responsible for ensuring that they make the necessary deductions from employees’ paychecks to support the program. These must then be submitted to the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority on a quarterly basis.

Employers have also been encouraged to discuss the upcoming program with their employees, and must communicate with both employees and the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority on any leave requests. In some circumstances, all three parties must discuss a request in order to establish the reason for the leave and to verify the duration and frequency of this period.

As part of the five-step application process that opens Dec. 1, employers must verify certain information related to employees seeking leave. This includes their data of hire, typical work day, scheduled work hours, and other income such as paid time off.

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