January 04, 2017

Washington, D.C. Council Passes Extensive Paid Family and Medical Leave Act

The Washington, D.C. Council recently passed the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2016 (UPLA), one of the nation’s most generous paid family and medical leave proposals to date. The bill will become law upon signature or inaction by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, or, if vetoed, following a two-thirds Council vote to override and 30-day period of congressional review. The bill also requires the Mayor to issue implementation rules within 180 days of the UPLA’s effective date.

If enacted as currently drafted, the UPLA will provide covered employees access to paid leave for a qualifying event, including:

  • Up to eight workweeks to care for a new child in the household, either through birth, adoption, foster care or any assumption of legal guardianship
  • Up to six workweeks to care for family members with a serious health condition
  • Up to two workweeks for self-care of a serious health condition

Covered employees would be able to use paid family and medical leave intermittently. Among other requirements, employees may be eligible for benefits if they are employed by a covered, private sector employer and spend more than 50 percent of their work time in Washington, D.C.

To fund the measure, the final version of the bill requires covered employers to contribute to a “Universal Paid Leave Implementation Fund” via a 0.62 percent payroll tax. Following a one-week waiting period, covered employees may submit a claim for payment of benefits, which will be paid up to a maximum weekly benefit, initially capped at $1,000 (with this weekly benefit cap remaining in effect through September 30, 2021). Collection of contributions to the Universal Paid Leave Implementation Fund will begin March 1, 2019, and payment of paid leave benefits would commence by March 15, 2020.

With the incoming Trump administration and anticipated decrease in federal regulations, employers are likely to see an uptick in the already consistent push for paid sick, family and medical leaves by an increasing number of employee-friendly states and municipalities. Such laws will continue to contribute to the multistate patchwork of leave-related rules that challenge employers.

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