In June 2019, two critical changes to the state's family and medical leave laws were passed, and the changes will impact virtually all of the state's manufacturers.
First, a new Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FMLI) program was created to provide wage replacement benefits to certain employees taking leave for reasons allowed under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the family violence leave law. It will provide employees with up to 12 weeks of paid FMLI benefits over a 12-month period. Also available will be two additional weeks of benefits for a serious health condition that results in incapacitation during pregnancy. Under the act, benefit-eligible employees will include those in the private sector who earned at least $2,325 during their highest-earning quarter within their base period (the first four of the five most recently completed quarters). The program is funded by employee contributions, with collections beginning in January 2021. Alternatively, employers can provide benefits through a private plan, which must provide their employees with at least the same level of benefits, under the same conditions and employee costs, as the FMLI program. Private plans must meet certain requirements for approval, and employees covered by an employer's private plan do not have to contribute to the FMLI program.
Second, the new legislation amended the state's FMLA, including extending FMLA to cover private sector employers with at least one employee rather than 75 employees—a significant expansion. It lowers the employee work threshold to qualify for job-protected leave from 12 months of employment and 1,000 work hours with the employer to three months of employment with the employer, with no minimum requirement for hours worked—another significant change. One revision to current law will align Connecticut's FMLA more closely with the federal FMLA: the maximum FMLA leave allowed will change from 16 weeks over a 24-month period to 12 weeks over a 12-month period, with an additional two weeks of leave due to a serious health condition that results in incapacitation during pregnancy. However, unlike current law, the act limits the extent to which an employer may require an employee taking FMLA leave to use his or her employer-provided paid leave.
The new legislation adds to the family members for whom an employee can take FMLA leave to include the employee's siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and anyone else related by blood or affinity whose close association the employee is equivalent to that of a spouse, sibling, son or daughter, grandparent, grandchild, or parent. Similarly, it expands the family members for which employers must allow their employees to use up to two weeks of any employer-provided paid sick leave. Furthermore, starting January 1, 2022, the act creates a "non-charge" against an employer's unemployment tax experience rate when an employee's separation from employment with the employer is due to the return of someone who was on bona fide FMLA leave. In effect, this allows an employer to lay off an employee who was temporarily filling the job of an employee on FMLA leave without increasing the employer's unemployment taxes.
The majority of the legislation went into effect upon passage—June 25, 2019—except the provisions affecting the terms of the current FMLA, which are effective January 1, 2022, and the employer notice requirements, effective July 1, 2022.
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