DC Employers Must Notify Employees of Their Right to Paid Leave

D.C. paid leave is coming July 1, 2020

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The District of Columbia’s Paid Family Leave Act (PFLA) is often described as one of the most expansive leave offerings in the country. The act allows workers to begin taking leave in July, but employers are already under an obligation to comply with the law’s notice requirements to employees.

What’s in the Paid Leave Act?

The Paid Leave Act provides up to 8 weeks of parental leave for bonding with a new child, 6 weeks of family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition and 2 weeks of medical leave to care for one’s own serious health condition starting July 1, 2020, DOES says.

D.C. Paid Family Leave Act notice requirements

Covered District of Columbia employers must notify employees about their right to paid leave under the law. Employers must post a notice in all locations where covered employees work. If an employer has covered employees working remotely, it must send them copies of the notice so they can post it in their workspaces.

Employers must also provide an electronic or physical notice to employees at several points during hiring and employment to:

  1. All employees at least once between February 1, 2020 and February 1, 2021, and at least once a year every following year
  2. All new employees hired after February 1 at the time of hire
  3. Individual employees when the employer receives direct notice after February 1, 2020 of the employee’s need for leave for an event that could qualify for paid family leave benefits

The requirement went into effect February 1, 2020.

The D.C. Department of Employment Services (DOES) has an Office of Paid Family Leave (OPFL), which has launched a website to assist employers with compliance.

Who does it apply to?

The law applies to private employers with at least 1 employee working in Washington, D.C. and includes non-profits and household employers that pay unemployment insurance tax as well as self-employed individuals who have opted in to the program, according to a paid leave notice provided by DOES. Federal and local government workers are not affected.

The measure takes an expansive view of who is covered by the law. In general, covered employees are those who spend more than 50% of their work time in the District of Columbia during some or all of the 52 weeks immediately preceding a qualifying leave event, according to the FAQs for employees provided by DOES. Residents of other states with jobs in D.C. will be eligible if they meet the criteria.

Employees who telecommute are eligible for paid leave benefits, as long as they spend more than 50% of their work time physically working in the District of Columbia for a covered employer that is based in the District. In addition, temporary, seasonal, and part-time workers can also qualify for D.C.’s paid family leave.

How much will workers receive?

The law provides that up to 90% of an eligible worker’s income will be paid out during qualifying leave. Employees can take advantage of a Paid Family Leave Weekly Benefit Calculator on DOES’ website to get an idea of their weekly benefit amount. The current maximum weekly benefit amount is $1,000.

The District began collecting the quarterly payroll tax to fund the benefits on July 1, 2019. All covered employers are required to contribute 0.62% of the wages for each of its covered employees.

Increase in paid family leave offerings

An increasing number of states and localities are embracing the need for paid family leave.

Eight states – California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington – and the District of Columbia have laws offering paid family leave, up from the 5 states as well as the District of Columbia seen in 2017, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

It’s been widely reported that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not offer paid family leave. However, recently, there has been movement on a national paid family leave policy. Congress approved and President Donald Trump signed legislation on Dec. 20, 2019 that grants federal workers 12 weeks of parental leave for the birth or placement of a child starting October 2020.

Although Trump reportedly struck the deal for paid family leave in exchange for the creation of a new branch of the U.S. military, the Space Force, Trump is on the record as supporting a nationwide paid family leave plan. He supported such leave during his campaign, called for national paid leave in his State of the Union speech in 2019 and his fiscal year 2019 budget proposal included a plan for 6 weeks of paid leave for mothers and fathers.

There is a national law that mandates unpaid family leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave to care for seriously ill family members or for the arrival of a child. However, the FMLA only applies to private employers with 50 or more employees and to public agencies.

Perhaps with an eye toward the public support for paid family leave, many of the nation’s largest employers are examining their family leave offerings and beefing them up. For example, Goldman Sachs recently increased its paid parental leave to 20 weeks for all new parents.

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