From new and revised Paid Family and Medical Leave laws to expanded accommodations for pregnant workers and job applicants, 2023 saw improved access to benefits and protections for American workers. Social Security benefits remain a topic of constant discussion, and there is much to stay informed about across the disability and absence landscape. As we head into 2024, we are highlighting some of the significant moments from the absence and disability world in 2023.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act takes effect
On June 27, 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) went into effect, requiring all employers with 15 employees or more and other state and federal government entities to provide reasonable accommodations for a worker’s known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation will cause the employer an undue hardship. More than 30 states and municipalities nationwide have laws currently in place that provide accommodations to pregnant workers. The PWFA establishes new federal minimum standards that must be met, but state and municipal governments may offer additional protection
13 states and the District of Columbia enact Paid Family and Medical Leave laws
The number of private industry workers with access to paid family leave benefits in the United States increased slightly this year, growing to 27 percent from 24 percent in 2022, according to the Employee Benefits in the United States Report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted Paid Family and Medical Leave programs. With an additional eight states offering voluntary paid leave through private insurance, 22 states now have leave laws in place or pending. Starting in January 2024, Colorado workers can take advantage of a paid family leave program. An additional four states have enacted programs that will begin paying benefits in 2026 – Maryland, Delaware, Maine, and Minnesota.
Social Security prioritizes its hiring initiative
Earlier this year, the Social Security Administration shared that it was adding 4,000 new employees in addition to replacing departing staff. Social Security expects these hiring initiatives to directly impact those filing for or receiving benefits, projecting an additional 50,000 more retirement claim filings, 130,000 more initial disability claims processed, and two million more phone calls answered once staging levels improve. With a concerted effort to not just add representatives but also hire IT, research, and statistics specialists, the hope is to expand on the skillsets needed to address their productivity challenges.
President Biden nominates former Maryland Governor for Social Security Commissioner
Two years after removing Andrew Saul from his position as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, President Biden announced former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley in July as his nominee for the next Commissioner to serve the remaining term through January 19, 2025. While the nomination is still pending Congressional approval, last month, the Senate Finance Committee voted in favor of the nomination during an Open Executive Session, moving the nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. Since his nomination, O’Malley has been vocal about his intent to use a data-driven approach to fixing Social Security’s problems.
Social Security and SSI beneficiaries to see a 3.2% cost-of-living increase
More than 7 million Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries and their dependents will automatically receive a 3.2% increase beginning with their December 2023 check, thanks to the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). Each year, Social Security typically implements an increase in benefits that provide vital additional income to cover rising costs due to inflation and offer a cushion for any further healthcare expenses that may arise. While SSI recipients should expect to see the increase in December, the more than 66 million Social Security beneficiaries will see the 3.2 percent cost-of-living adjustment beginning in January 2024. For those receiving Social Security Disability Income benefits, most recipients in 2024 will be able to earn $1,550 a month from work without risk to their benefits, an increase from $1,470 in 2023.
Looking ahead to 2024
As we approach 2024, there are additional changes to look for that could impact the benefits landscape. With more paid leave programs taking effect in various states and a new Social Security Commissioner likely to take the helm, there will likely be more to stay informed about when it comes to disability and absence management. Our experts can provide support to our clients as it relates to Social Security benefits and other disability topics. Reach out to your local Social Security office or Brown & Brown Absence Services Group for additional information.