Connecticut’s New Paid Family Medical Leave Act

2021 is going to bring some big changes to employment in Connecticut.
            The biggest, which you probably heard about at some point, is the beginning of the paid family medical leave act. Under the new law, all employers in the state, regardless of size, will have to begin contributing to a state fund that will ultimately allow eligible employees to begin receiving paid leave for up to twelve weeks starting in 2022.
            Beginning with the first payroll in 2021, employers will have to withhold .5% from all employees’ pay. On every thousand dollars earned, fifty bucks will be sent to the state to help create the fund. A nickel here, a dime there and soon we’re talking about real money.
            The good news (wink-wink) is that the funds will be administered by the Connecticut Paid Family Leave Authority. What could possibly go wrong? A government agency handling the money you worked for – sounds perfect.
            The paid leave law applies to all employers. Under the current FMLA in Connecticut, only employers with 75 or more employees had to provide unpaid leave to eligible employees. That provision is gone now.
            Beginning on January 1, 2022 (there will be one year of contributions to build up the fund before anyone can take advantage), employees will be able to take up to twelve weeks of paid leave annually for any number of reasons. None of them include golf or a trip to the beach. For now anyway.
            Under the law, an employee can take the paid leave if he is experiencing a serious health condition, caring for a family member with a serious health condition, caring for a new child, dealing with an emergency due to a family member’s active military service, serving as an organ or bone marrow donor, or being a victim of family violence.
            Family members to which the law applies now includes siblings, grandparents and grandchildren, in-laws, and “individuals related by blood or affinity (affinity?) whose close association the employee shows to be equivalent of those family relationships.”
            So, in reality, what does this all mean for employers? Well, first of all, you can count on some employees taking a twelve-week summer vacation while you hold their job. Think of all the folks your employees may have an affinity for who just might be suffering from some illness or other. So prepare yourself.
            For conscientious employees, congratulations. You are now making a charitable contribution of about fifty bucks a week to a fund so that your freeloading co-workers can take a twelve-week paid vacation. No worries, your reward will be at the pearly gates. You hope.
            As a Democrat and a union lawyer, you would think this would be my cup of tea. It’s bitter tea. I can’t see taking money out of your pocket to pay for a benefit that you are unlikely to use and which is more than likely to be abused by a discreet subsection of society. We know who they are. They’ve been doing it for decades. For some it is the American way. It’s just not our American way.
            The way to handle the potential, catastrophic consequences of long-term illness is through insurance. If you want it you can buy it. If you’d rather take your chances, that’s your choice. When I started working, I began paying for a disability policy. My choice. It wasn’t easy, but I did it for me. I didn’t need the government doing it for me.

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