Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Paid leave and pregnant worker protection laws – what employers need to know - Brown & Brown Absence Services Group

Over the past several years, there has been a steady increase in interest in state-level Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) programs. 2023 has shown to be a year with tremendous growth in the PFML space. In 2022, there were just 11 states with paid leave plans; today, 16 states, as well as the District of Columbia, have passed laws expanding access to the job-protected leave provided by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This activity in paid leave laws has risen from employee demand for greater work-life balance and economic stability, especially for workers struggling to manage major life events. Businesses are now feeling the impact of these new laws. In fact, according to Littler Mendelson, 71% of the 515 in-house lawyers, C-suite executives, and Human Resources professionals surveyed expect these changes in paid leave to impact their business in the year ahead.

The benefits and protection offered by PFML programs vary by state. Many states offer state-paid leave, but not all are mandatory programs, with eight states adopting voluntary plans that will be provisioned through the private insurance market. In addition to paid leave laws, 16 states have chosen to expand job protections offered through the federal FMLA by including them in their state leave laws. (Read more about which states have chosen to do so and what they’ve added on at the Bipartisan Policy Center).

Twelve states are introducing or making amends to their Paid Family and Medical Leave programs in 2023. We have included a high-level overview of what to know about each plan and encourage you to visit each state’s respective website for more information. This information is up-to-date as of September 2023.

Washington (Washington Paid Family & Medical Leave)
Enacted:
October 19, 2017 (original legislation)
Benefits effective: January 1, 2020 (original legislation)
Enacted: June 9, 2022 (second substitute bill)
Enacted:May 25, 2023 (stabilization legislation)
Effective: July 23, 2023

Washington’s Paid Family & Medical Leave benefits have been vital in supporting families since benefits first became payable in 2020. Earlier this year, a stabilization bill was passed, to help keep up with the program and address funding issues. Currently, premiums are 0.8% of gross wages, with the rate expected to change as of January 1, 2024. Each year, the agency will calculate the new premium rate on September 30th for the following calendar year.

Oregon (Paid Leave Oregon)
Enacted:
August 9, 2019
Contributions begin: January 1, 2023
Applications open: August 14, 2023
Benefits effective: September 3, 2023

Oregon Paid Family Medical Leave began taking applications for employees and eligible self-employed individuals on August 14, 2023. Once approved, benefits will include up to 12 weeks of paid leave for medical or family caregiving needs, with an additional two weeks for qualifying pregnancy complications. In addition, a Safe Leave option is available for survivors of sexual assault, harassment, stalking, or domestic violence.

Colorado (Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program)
Enacted:
December 31, 2020
Contributions begin: January 1, 2023
Benefits effective: January 1, 2024

The Colorado Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program (FAMLI) will offer workers 12 weeks of paid leave for care of themselves or their family during a serious health condition. In addition, leave can be granted to care for a new child, make arrangements for a military deployment, and address the safety needs and impact of domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Individuals with pregnancy and/or delivery complications/additional health-related needs may also qualify for a further four weeks of leave.

New Hampshire (New Hampshire Paid Family & Medical Leave)
Enacted:
June 25, 2021
Employer open enrollment begins: December 1, 2022
Benefits effective: January 1, 2023

As the first voluntary Paid Family and Medical Leave program in the country, those workers who elect to participate will receive 60% of their average weekly wage (up to the Social Security wage cap) for up to twelve weeks per year for specified leaves of absence, including to take care of themselves or their family during a serious health condition, caring for a new child, and making arrangements for military deployment.

Maryland (Family and Medical Leave Insurance)
Enacted:
June 1, 2022 (original legislation)
Enacted: June 1, 2023 (revised legislation)
Contributions begin: October 1, 2024
Benefits effective: January 1, 2026

The Maryland Family and Medical Leave Insurance program was established through the 2022 Time to Care Act. Originally set for benefits to begin effective 2025, legislation was passed earlier this year to revise the program and push the effective date out one year. Every employee working in Maryland, including self-employed individuals and employers with 15 or more employees participating in the program, will begin contributing to program funding starting in October 2024.

Vermont (Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance Plan)
Enacted:
December 6, 2022
Benefits effective (Phase 1): July 1, 2023
Benefits effective (Phase 2): July 1, 2024
Benefits effective (Phase 3): July 1, 2025

The State of Vermont hired The Hartford at the end of 2022 to create the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Plan. Through the plan, benefits are payable as a 60% wage replacement for six weeks for qualifying events and are being rolled out in phases. The state’s 8,000 employees are the first to receive the new benefit. Private and public employers with two or more employees can join in 2024, while employers with fewer than two employees and individual workers will wait until the final wave begins in 2025. Benefits are voluntary for non-state employees.

Illinois (Paid Leave for All Workers Act)
Enacted:
March 13, 2023
Benefits effective: January 1, 2024

When the program officially takes effect on January 1, 2024, the Paid Leave for All Workers Act will allow all Illinois employees, including domestic workers, to earn and use at least 40 hours of paid leave in a 12-month period. Employers may provide additional coverage beyond 40 hours, with the Paid Leave for All Workers Act establishing the baseline coverage that must be provided.

Tennessee (Tennessee Paid Family Leave Insurance Act)
Enacted:
March 31, 2023
Benefits effective: January 1, 2024

The Tennessee Paid Family Leave Insurance Act was created by Senate Bill 454. The bill gives group life and disability income carriers the ability to issue family leave insurance as a rider or a benefit included in their life or disability income policy or as a standalone policy. The policy will provide a percentage of wage replacement to the employee for the birth, adoption, or placement in foster care of a child, caring for a family member with a serious health condition, or making arrangements for military deployment.

Alabama (Alabama Paid Family Leave Income Replacement Benefits Act)
Enacted:
April 27, 2023

Alabama enacted the Alabama Paid Family Leave Income Replacement Benefits Act to authorize insurers with group or voluntary disability policies to expand their fully insured disability benefits offerings to include family leave for an employee covered by these plans. This plan is not mandatory and allows employers to choose whether to offer the state’s PFML program or get approval for a voluntary plan. Employees can take leave to care for themselves or their family during a serious health condition, care for a new child, or make arrangements for a military deployment.

Florida (Paid Family Leave Insurance)
Enacted:
May 25, 2023

Florida implemented the Paid Family Leave Insurance Act to allow licensed insurers to issue a policy covering the benefits related to paid family leave. The law stipulates that “paid family leave insurance is insurance issued to an employer which is related to a benefits program provided to an employee to pay for part of the employee’s income loss due to a qualified leave of absence.” A qualified leave of absence includes the birth, adoption, or placement in foster care of a child, caring for a family member with a serious health condition, or making arrangements for military deployment.

Minnesota (Paid Family and Medical Leave)
Enacted:
May 25, 2023
Benefits effective: January 1, 2026
Contributions begin: January 1, 2026

The State of Minnesota enacted Paid Family and Medical Leave earlier this year. The program will be implemented on January 1, 2026, allowing employees to take leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition or to bond with a new child. In addition, employees who are contending with their own serious condition can also apply for leave. Once effective, employers have the option to go with a private plan that exceeds the state benefits.

Maine (Maine Paid Family Leave Insurance Program)
Enacted:
July 11, 2023
Contributions begin: January 1, 2025
Benefits effective: May 1, 2026

Earlier this year, the Governor of Maine signed a budget establishing a Paid Family and Medical Leave program in the state. Eligible workers can take up to twelve weeks of paid time off to care for themselves or a family member. Subject to a potential delay, given an actuarial study, employees will be able to begin taking leave and receiving benefits on May 1, 2026.

Michigan (SB 0332 and 0333)
Pending

Earlier this year, two bills were introduced to the Michigan Senate that would serve to establish a Paid Family and Medical Leave program with a private plan option. The bills remain with the Senate and have yet to make any significant progress.

Additional job protections proposed for pregnant workers
In addition to the protections offered through new and expanded state-paid leave plans, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has proposed regulations to further enhance protections for pregnant workers or job applicants related to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The regulations are open to public comment through October 10, 2023. The final version is expected to be published by December 29th.

How Brown & Brown can help
As we have seen over the past several years, the covered leave landscape will continue to evolve. We recognize that regulatory changes are time-consuming for employers, but staying informed and understanding how to interpret legislation is important. Our experts are informed of regulatory updates relevant to absence, disability insurance, and Social Security Disability Insurance and are available to our clients seeking advisory services. If you want to hear more and see how we can support your organization, contact Brown & Brown today.

Nothing herein is considered legal advice. Nothing in this post is intended as advice or a suggestion to elect or not elect to claim benefits of any kind, including Social Security benefits, nor is it intended as financial advice in any way. The decision to claim benefits is a personal one that is contingent upon each individual’s unique circumstances.