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Paid Family Leave

D.C. Paid Family Leave Compliance Update

May 3, 2019

The D.C. Paid Family Leave program is coming soon! Starting July 1, 2019, the District of Columbia will collect taxes from all private sector employers in the District to fund a new Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefit.  The first PFL quarterly tax will cover wages paid to workers in the second quarter of 2019 (April, May, and June), so employers must begin tracking wages for PFL purposes on April 1, 2019 (this is likely already accomplished through tracking for unemployment insurance).

Important Deadlines

  • April 1, 2019 – Effective Date – Employee wages count toward PFL tax collection
  • July 1, 2019 – Employers file wage reports & Q2 PFL Tax Collection begins
  • July 31, 2019 – Q2 PFL Tax Payment Deadline;
  • July 1, 2020 –DC will begin administering paid leave benefits.

Who is Required to Comply with D.C.’s Paid Family Leave Law?

Any employer performing services in the District of Columbia, that also pays unemployment insurance taxes for its employees pursuant to section 3 of the District of Columbia Unemployment Compensation Act, will be required to pay paid family leave taxes.  This also includes non-profit organizations and household employers that pay unemployment insurance tax, as well as self-employed individuals who have opted into the paid family leave program.

The federal government and DC government are not covered employers because the District of Columbia is not authorized to impose a tax on either entity.

How Do Employers Comply with the Paid Family Leave Law’s Contribution Requirements?

  • Paid Family Leave benefits are funded by an employer tax of .62% on gross wages paid to employees.
  • This tax will be calculated and submitted by employers in a similar fashion to the UC30 wage report that is submitted for unemployment insurance taxes.  D.C.’s Department of Employment Services (DOES) hopes to use the same portal currently used for unemployment contributions (the Employer Self Service Portal, or ESSP). 
  • Employers will make quarterly contributions to the Universal Paid Leave Implementation Fund online.  These quarterly contributions are based on the immediate past quarter of wages paid.
  • A covered employer who pays unemployment insurance to the District of Columbia for an employee during any quarter of a calendar year is presumed to be required to contribute to the Universal Paid Leave Implementation Fund for that employee for that quarterly period.
  • If the contributions are not paid when due, an interest rate of 1.5 percent per month will be assessed until the contributions are made.
  • If contributions are not paid, or wage reports are not filed on or before the first day of the second month following the close of the calendar quarters for which they are due, an added penalty of $100 or ten percent (10%) of the amount due (whichever is higher) will be assessed. This penalty is a flat payment and does not accrue interest. 
  • Employers must make the first contribution payments between July 1 and July 31, 2019 for wages paid during Q2 (April, May, June). 
    • Employers should update/create an ESSP account before July 1, 2019.
    • Employers must collect worker wages from April 1, 2019 through June 30, 2019 in preparation for reporting and tax calculation.

Who is a Covered Employee Under D.C.’s Paid Family Leave Law?

  • A covered employee is any worker of a covered employer:
    • Who spends more than 50% of his or her work time for that employer working in the District of Columbia; or
    • Whose employment for the covered employer is based in the District and who regularly spends a substantial amount of his or her work time for that covered employer in the District and not more than 50% of his or her work time for that covered employer in another jurisdiction.
    • Employees who telework/telecommute may be eligible for paid-leave benefits if the remote location of their work is “incidental” and not essential to the performance of their work.  

When are Covered Employees Eligible to Take Paid Family Leave?

  • Employees who have been a “covered employee” during some or all of the 52 calendar weeks immediately preceding the qualifying event for which the PFL is being taken.
  • The employee must be employed by a covered employer at the time of the application and have had their wages reported by a covered employer.  The covered employer at the time of the employee’s application need not be the same as the covered employer that reported the employee’s wages.
  • If an employee worked for more than one covered employer during the preceding 52 calendar weeks, the wages from all covered employers will be considered in determining the average weekly wage/benefit amount for that employee.

How Much Leave is Available Under D.C.’s Paid Family Leave Law?

  • 8 weeks parental leave to bond with a child (including birth, foster, or adoption);
  • 6 weeks for family leave to provide care to a family member with a serious health condition;
  • 2 weeks of medical leave for the employee’s own serious health condition.
  • Employees can access a maximum of eight (8) weeks of benefits per 52-week period.

Following the occurrence of a qualifying parental leave event, an eligible employee has up to 52 weeks to file a claim for paid leave benefits.  

Following the occurrence of a qualifying family or medical leave event, an eligible employee has up to 90 days to file a claim for paid leave benefit.

How are Payments Administered Under the Paid Family Leave Law?

Employers are not responsible for administering payments to covered employees with a qualifying leave event.  Benefit payments are issued to eligible individuals directly from the Department of Employment Services.

How Does Paid Family Leave Interact with Other Leave?

Employers have the ability to determine whether or not their employer-sponsored paid leave benefits run concurrently with their employees’ use of the District’s paid family leave program, but an eligible individual’s right to the District’s paid family leave benefits cannot be diminished by an employer’s paid leave policy.

The District’s paid-leave program does not supersede any law, collective bargaining agreement, or contract that provides paid-leave rights in addition to the rights established by the Paid Leave Act.

  • If paid leave taken under the District’s program also qualifies as protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or the District’s Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA), the paid leave taken shall run concurrently with, and not in addition to, the leave taken under FMLA or DCFMLA.
  • Employees of covered employers with fewer than 20 employees are not entitled to job protection if taking paid leave.  Employees of employers with 20 or more employees are protected under the DCFMLA.  Employees of employers with 50 or more employees are protected under the FMLA.

Under some circumstances, covered employees may qualify for both Accrued Sick and Safe Leave (ASSL) and PFL at the same time.  For example, an employee who gives birth would be entitled to ASSL for her own “serious health condition” for the condition of being pregnant and giving birth.  She would also be entitled to PFL after giving birth.

DOES has launched a new website for the paid leave program that is not yet widely available or searchable via search engine.  This website contains information not available on the DOES website.

Clarian Counsel provides more information about DC Paid Family Leave here and here.