Overview: Several states have passed laws related to paid family leave (PFL) to address a gap in coverage left by federal and state leave laws. While the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (and similar state laws) require covered employers to allow eligible employees to take job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons, the leave is unpaid. PFL helps employees by providing them an opportunity to take paid leave under similar circumstances.
Some of the original state PFL laws are insurance-based and provide only wage-replacement benefits. However, more recently, states have passed laws that provide both wage-replacement benefits and leave and reinstatement rights.
Although several of the state PFL programs are funded by employee-paid payroll taxes with no employer contribution requirement, certain PFL laws also require employers to help with funding. In some of the states, PFL benefits are administered along with temporary disability insurance (TDI) by the applicable state agency. However, not all PFL laws fall under a TDI law.
In general, PFL laws consider absences to care for a seriously ill family member and to bond with a new child to be qualifying reasons for leave. Some of the paid family leave (or paid family leave insurance) laws also allow employees to use PFL benefits for a military-related qualifying exigency or for their own medical condition.
Employers should be aware of their obligations under PFL laws and know how to identify and respond to requests for information regarding PFL benefits. It is also important to understand how state PFL laws interact with other leaves of absence protected under federal, state or local laws.
Trends: PFL continues to be a trending issue, and more states are considering passing PFL laws. Employers should be vigilant in tracking these developments to ensure compliance.
Author: Jessica Webb-Ayer, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect the forthcoming Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, and a forthcoming increase in the duration of California paid family leave benefits.
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Updated to reflect final regulations implementing the forthcoming state paid family and medical leave law, effective July 1, 2019.
HR guidance on handling paid family leave.