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Paid Family Leave in Connecticut: What Small Businesses Need to Know

Current Connecticut law only provides unpaid leave for certain employees who need to take time off from work to bond with a new child or to care for a seriously ill child, spouse or family member. However, many workers cannot afford to take extended unpaid leave, and some small employers are unable to provide paid leave benefits to their employees for an extended period of time.

A paid family leave insurance program would allow Connecticut employees to contribute to a state-administered insurance program that would help provide paid leave to working adults who need time off to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child. This would allow small businesses that previously could not afford to offer paid leave to provide an extra benefit to their employees.

This document is intended to answer any questions small employers might have about the importance of establishing a paid family leave insurance program in Connecticut, and the effects this would have on small business owners and their workers.

What is the current status of family medical leave policies in Connecticut?

  • The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. FMLA applies to employers who have 50 or more employees. To become eligible for federal FMLA, workers must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and have completed 1,250 hours of work.
  • Under state law, Connecticut allows for further unpaid family leave for all employers with 75 or more employees, except private or parochial elementary or secondary schools. Employees are allowed up to 16 weeks in two years for the birth or adoption of a child, placement of child for foster care, to care for a family member with a serious medical condition, for the serious medical condition of the employee, or to serve as an organ or bone marrow donor. The state provides leave for a child, spouse, parent, civil union partner, parent-in-law or stepparent.
  • To be eligible for the 16 weeks of unpaid leave available under state law, the employee must work for a business with at least 75 employees. Employees must have at least 1,000 hours of service with an employer during the 12-month period before the leave.
  • Additionally, service employees in Connecticut have the right to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year. The Paid Sick Leave Act applies to employers with at least 50 employees; however, manufacturers and certain tax exempt organizations are excluded from the law. Employees may use this paid leave for their own medical needs or to care for an ailing family member (a child or spouse, including a same-sex spouse).

Is Connecticut looking to offer a paid family leave insurance program, like Rhode Island recently started administering?

  • Earlier this year, Connecticut lawmakers introduced two bills that would have provided up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid family and medical leave to the state’s employees. Although the legislation did not pass, the program would’ve been funded entirely through employee contributions at a rate of less than half a percent of weekly earnings. Employees would have received 100% wage replacement, up to $1,000 per week, to care for themselves, an ill family member, a new child or a member of the armed forces. More information about the proposal can be found here.

What effects does paid family medical leave insurance have on businesses?

  • Based on the experience of businesses in California and other states that have paid family medical leave programs in place, such a program is unlikely to have a significant effect on businesses in Connecticut. In fact, the majority of businesses in California (87%) reported no increased costs as a result of the state’s paid leave program. Employers that already offer paid family leave can expect to see cost-savings.
  • According to a May 2017 poll, 77% of Connecticut small business owners support establishing a paid family and medical leave program.
  • These findings line up with a recent Small Business Majority poll  that surveyed small business owners nationwide about paid family and medical leave. We found 7 in 10 small business owners and operators support the FAMILY Act, legislation that would establish a national insurance program enabling workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid time away from work in order to care for a loved one or bond with a new child. Additionally, most small business owners (61%) support state-administered paid leave programs.
  • What’s more, a majority of small businesses already have some type of policy—formal or informal—in place when it comes to family medical leave—time an employee would take to care for a family member with a serious illness or caregiving need. More than 7 in 10 (72%) small business owners have either a formal written policy, a consistent but not written policy or informal policy provided on a case-by-case basis to provide family medical leave. Of the small business owners who do offer family medical leave, 61% offer full or partial pay and 22% offer pay depending on the employee.

What effects does paid family medical leave insurance have on employees?

  • Employees who need to take leave to care for a loved one or welcome a new child would be able to do so without having to worry about whether they will be able to pay their bills or keep their jobs.

Do other states have similar programs?

  • Yes. California , New Jersey and Rhode Island have paid family and medical leave insurance programs. California’s Paid Family Leave program has been in effect for more than 10 years. New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance program has been in effect for seven years, and Rhode Island’s Temporary Caregiver Insurance program has been in effect for three years. All programs have been implemented successfully. Evidence suggests that neither California, nor New Jersey nor Rhode Island’s program has imposed a burden on businesses, and all have had significant benefits for employees. Moreover, many employers find that the program is actually good for their businesses, boosting employee loyalty and lowering turnover.

Where can I get additional information about Connecticut’s family leave policies?