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All Over the Map: What’s Next for Paid Family Leave?
What's the state of paid family leave across the country? Four states have paid family leave programs in place in 2018. Two more will go into effect in 2020. And at least four states have bills in progress, pending lawmakers' approval.
In addition, Maryland and the City of Austin, Texas recently enacted requirements for paid “sick or safe leave.” Their programs provide 40-64 hours annually that employees can also use for family caregiving.
That's all good news for employees, but it may be tricky for large, multi-state employers. All these programs have different leave guidelines, eligibility rules and funding plans. Here's a quick overview to help employers master current PFL programs — and understand what's coming soon.
The State of Paid Family Leave Programs
6 Variables to Watch Out for
One size doesn't fit all. Keeping track of different programs can place a big burden on HR and payroll staff. Here are six key variables you'll need to keep straight.
1. The definition of a family member. Parents, spouses, domestic partners and children are typically covered. Under some state programs, grandparents, grandchildren and siblings also qualify.
2. The length of the leave. Each of the four states with PFL laws in effect offers a different amount of leave, ranging from four to 12 weeks. And in some cases, the amount of leave varies based on the reason. For example, the District of Columbia will allow eight weeks paid leave for new parents, but only six weeks for family caregivers.
3. Integration with existing state and federal leave programs. Most states that enacted paid family leave programs also have a state disability program. The District of Columbia and Washington State were the first to enact PFL laws without an existing TDI program. New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, California and Hawaii have TDI programs that offer paid leave for an employee's own disability, including pregnancy. Employers and employees need to be aware of how various leave programs interact, including with the Family and Medical Leave Act's unpaid leave.
4. The amount of pay a worker receives. Workers can expect to receive a percentage of their current wages while on leave. Each state imposes a cap on annual benefits, usually based on the state's average weekly wage. San Francisco's program goes further. It supplements the state's PFL program and aims to provide eligible employees with 100 percent income replacement for up to six weeks.
5. The source of funds for the program. Most PFL programs and proposals so far create special insurance systems to pay benefits. In New York, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island, premiums for PFL are paid solely by employees. The District of Columbia's more limited program will be entirely employer-funded.
6. The size and type of employer — private or public. In general, PFL programs apply to most private employers. Washington State's program is the only one to date that will require virtually all employers to participate. Two exceptions are federal and tribal employers. Each state also has its own rules about whether public employers and self-employed workers can opt in.
For a more detailed comparison, check out this Paid Family Leave Insurance Laws chart and other PFL resources from the National Partnership for Women & Families. You can also refer to this comparative chart of paid family leave and medical leave laws from A Better Balance.
What's in the Forecast?
On the national front, paid family leave is on the agenda for both Democrats and Republicans. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro worked earlier this year to introduce the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, modeled on successful state programs. Recent Republican proposals include funding paid family leave for new parents by allowing workers to draw on future Social Security benefits.
States where legislation is currently under consideration include New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Connecticut.
Watch This Space
The Standard went all out to help our customers prepare for New York's PFL launch in January 2018. And we’re committed to partnering with employers across the country.
To find our latest answers and resources, you can check back here on Relatively Speaking, our PFL-focused blog. Or subscribe to the RSS feed to make sure you don't miss any updates.