By Daniela Altimari
Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday signed into law one of the nation's most expansive family and medical leave programs.
"It's about time," Lamont said at a news conference in the Old Judiciary Room at the state Capitol, flanked by lawmakers and others who had supported the bill. "[This bill] means you can now take the time you need to care for a sick child, to care for a new child and do what you've got to do and you don't need to choose between a job and someone you love."
Here's how the program will work:
What does it do?
Paid family and medical leave policies allow workers to take a specified amount of paid time off from work to deal with a health issue or care for a new baby or an ailing loved one. However details vary widely, depending on the way the program is structured. In some northern European countries, workers are guaranteed up to a year of paid leave. Most state-level programs, including Connecticut's, are far less generous, providing between 12 and 20 weeks of paid leave.
Who is eligible for Connecticut's program?
Under the law signed by Lamont, Connecticut workers at firms of one or more employee will be eligible for paid time off to care for a newborn, a newly adopted or foster child, a seriously ill relative by blood or marriage or a close associate who is the equivalent of a family member. Employees dealing with their own serious health conditions or who are serving as a marrow or organ donor will also be eligible.
The legislature's Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates 1.4 million private-sector employees in Connecticut as well as non-unionized government workers will be able to participate in the program. Workers will need a physician's certification to participate.
How much time can employees take?
Connecticut workers will be entitled to up to 12 weeks of paid leave. The law allows employees who experience a serious pregnancy-related health complication to receive up to two additional weeks of paid time off.
Who pays for it?
Unlike paid family and medical leave programs in other states, some of which are partially funded by a surcharge on employers, Connecticut's plan is paid for by a 0.5 percent payroll tax levied on all employees.
When does it start?
The percent payroll tax will begin to be deducted from employee's paychecks on Jan. 1, 2021. Employees can begin collecting benefits beginning Jan. 1, 2022.
How much can employees receive?
The maximum weekly benefit cannot exceed 60 times the minimum wage, which is expected to rise to $15 an hour over the next four years. The maximum paid family and medical leave benefit will rise accordingly, from $780 a week in 2022 to $900 a week in 2023. Low-wage workers would receive a greater percentage of their regular earnings.
Who is not eligible?
Unionized public employees are exempt, although their unions can negotiate to participate in the program. Self-employed employees and sole proprietors will also have the ability to opt-in.
What do supporters say?
Advocates of the program, including Lamont, say the program will support working families and make Connecticut a more desirable place to live and work.
What do critics say?
They argue Connecticut's sweeping program will wreak havoc on the business community and hurt the state's competitiveness, and could invite abuse and fraud.
What other states offer paid family and medical leave?
California, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington also offer paid family and medical leave.
(c)2019 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)