Connecticut employees should have all noticed a new deduction coming out of their paychecks by now, which took effect on January 1, 2021. This new mandate comes as a result of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) created in 2019 and passed by House and Senate Democrats. This program is funded through a 0.5 percent withholding from the paychecks of all Connecticut employees for benefits that will be made available starting January 1, 2022.
PFMLA applies to all businesses with as few as one employee and allows up to 12 weeks of paid leave for employees to care for themselves or care for a family member (spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, or any individual close to the employee). Employees may use this paid leave for the birth of a child, adoption or foster care, reasons related to family violence, military service, for their own or a family member’s serious health condition, and to serve as an organ or bone-marrow donor.
I strongly support paid family and medical leave, but I have concerns about the financial implications and overall solvency of this program. I understand that there are unforeseen circumstances in life where this benefit is necessary, but I do not believe that PFMLA should be forced – it should always be an option that one can elect to participate in. Prior to Connecticut passing this new PFMLA program, a federal plan was already in place to provide employees with paid time off. So, I ask – why fix something that isn’t broken?
The state’s PFMLA mandate supersedes federal law, which applies to companies with 50 or more workers and indicates that an employee must have worked 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months to qualify for FMLA. The new state law requires just three months of employment.
It is a travesty that Democrat legislators chose to roll out this new mandate as residents and businesses struggle to survive during the height of a pandemic. People lost their jobs, many stood in lines to pick up food donations just to feed their family, the federal government gave out stimulus checks to help people get by, and the State of Connecticut deducted money from their paychecks to fund a program these individuals may never use.
I joined my Republican colleagues in proposing a PFMLA plan that was not a mandate, and more recently called upon the governor and Democrat leaders to at the very least delay the implementation of this program to not overburden taxpayers and businesses. Connecticut employers, especially small businesses, have either shuttered their doors or been nearly crippled by the devastating impacts of COVID-19, and now they face additional administrative challenges with the implementation of another new state mandate. Again, they are left to just figure it out.
The bottom line is that now is not a good time for a payroll deduction on employees or additional mandate on businesses. The focus of the legislature should be on rebuilding the economy, assisting struggling businesses, and helping the residents of this state who have been most gravely impacted by COVID-19.
For more information, visit: www.ctpaidleave.org.
State Representative Joe Polletta