Omicron Hits as FMLA Ramps Up in CT

​            About six weeks ago I naively wrote that we finally had our hands around the neck of the pandemic and we were headed back to a normal work year in the new year. I think I must have gotten my booster around that time and I was feeling pretty bullet proof.
            Since then I attended an event that required production of a negative COVID test within the preceding 48 hours, proof of full vaccination status, and masking at all indoor events. Following that event, twelve attendees tested positive.
            That was a week after we first heard breathless news reports about Omicron attacking South Africa. Unbeknownst to us at the time, it was apparently already here and bursting through the protection offered by a double vaccine. I credit the booster with helping me avoid infection.
            In any event our anticipation of a fairly normal holiday season has been put to rest. It ain’t happening people.
            So what will this mean in the new year. Well, interestingly, Connecticut is poised to implement new family leave laws on January 1 and those new laws are going to impact business response to the Omicron variant and all succeeding variants.
            The Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act has been expanded to include more employees who previously could not take advantage of the law. Connecticut FMLA provides job protection to employees who must miss work to care for their own serious health or pregnancy condition or the serious health condition of a family member including grandparents, parents, siblings, and children. It also applies to bone marrow donation, as well as to those who have a family member in active military service who are experiencing a qualifying emergency.
            In order to be eligible for the Connecticut FMLA you must have worked for your employer for at least three consecutive months. If you are eligible, you are entitled to leave for 12 weeks in a 12-month period. The leave is unpaid unless you are eligible for paid leave from other source.
            Which brings me to the next new law. Connecticut’s Paid Family Medical Leave Act will start issuing paid benefits to eligible employees beginning January 1. In order to be eligible you must have elected the paid leave benefit through your employer which has been paid for by a deduction from your paycheck over the last year.   
            Your employer can require you to use your available paid leave time concurrently with your unpaid leave time. Your employer can also require you to use your available paid leave time while out on FMLA leave.
            This all means though that whereas prior spikes in infections could leave employees without an opportunity to get paid while either on quarantine, or while dealing with illness related to COVID, beginning January 1 there will be ways for employees to be paid when dealing with the effects of COVID.
            And employers will also have to, at a minimum, hold jobs for employees who must miss work due to the effects of COVID. Employees will be able to take up to twelve weeks of leave time due to COVID and still return to their jobs when the leave has ended.
            This could create some difficulties for employers, but ultimately it should provide employers with some workforce stability over time which will serve their purposes and their employees’ purposes.

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