Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave Law

On June 25, 2019, Governor Ned Lamont signed into law Connecticut’s Paid Family and Medical Leave law. Below are some highlights from the new law:

Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave Law
Key Dates June 25, 2019 – CT Governor signs legislation into law;
January 1, 2021 – Employee payroll tax begins;
January 1, 2022 – Benefits become available and final regulations are due;
July 1, 2022 – Annual notice of benefits to all new employees required.
Governing Body New state agency, the Paid Family Leave Insurance Authority.
Covered Employers Employers with at least one employee working in the state. The law exempts municipalities, local or regional boards of education, and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools. Municipal union employees can bargain to be covered under the state program. If the union bargains and is granted inclusion, non-union employees for that municipality will automatically be included.
Eligible Employees An employee who has earned at least $2,325 in a base period (ex:  first four of the five most recently completed calendar quarters) and have been employed at least 3 months preceding the leave request. Available to full-time, part-time and former employees (if they apply within 12 weeks of losing their job).
Leaves Covered Family leave to bond with a newborn or adopted child. Medical leave to care for a family member with a serious illness (family member’s include spouse, child, parent, parent-in-law, stepparent, others who are equivalent to a family member, grandchild, grandparent or sibling).  Medical leave is also available for the employee’s own serious illness. Paid leave is also available to serve as an organ or bone marrow donor.

Intermittent leave will also be allowed except in the case of bonding with a newborn or adoption.

Length of Leave Up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave during a 12 month period, with another two weeks available for a serious health condition related to pregnancy.
Benefit Amount 95% of base weekly earnings up to 60 times the minimum wage rate (maximum weekly amount will be approximately $780 per week in 2022 up to $900 per week in 2023).
Payroll Contribution Beginning January 1, 2021, a new payroll tax up to .5 percent of the employee’s wages will be deducted to fund the program. Wages are capped at the Social Security wage base ($132,900 in 2019).
Concurrent Benefits If an employee is receiving worker’s compensation, unemployment compensation and another other state or federal wage replacement, they will not be eligible for benefits under the CT Paid Family and Medical Leave.
Private Employer Plans Connecticut employers can opt out of the state program if they have an employer sponsored private plan that provides the same or more generous benefit. Private plans must be approved by a majority of covered employees.

The above is a brief overview of the law as it stands today and is subject to change. Final regulations are due by January 1, 2022 which is the same date that benefits are first payable. The regulations should clarify issues surrounding implementation, coordination with CT’s unpaid FMLA leave and provide sample model notices. Diversified Group will keep you informed of any developments.

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MA Paid Family and Medical Leave – Delay of Payroll Tax Deduction

Compliance

The Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave law (effective in 2021) requires employers to start making financial contributions to support the paid leave program starting on July 1, 2019. The law allows employers to deduct a part of the required contribution from each employee’s wages (along with an employer contribution*) to fund the program. The initial contributions are set at 0.63% of each employee’s wages.

On June 12th, the Governor, Charlie Baker, announced a three-month delay to the start of the payroll tax which would have begun July 1st. The delay is to help clarify the provisions of the program and to give employers adequate time to adjust and implement the program. The goal is to have the new tax in place by the fall. This delay comes in part due to the May 20th request from Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) and various labor groups requesting the delay, as well as fixes to the policy that better align the law with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

*Employers with fewer than 25 employees do not have to pay the employer share of the cost. 

Diversified Group will stay up-to-date on this issue and pass along any further developments.

Diversified Group State Mandate Update: New Jersey

Pre-Tax Transportation Fringe Benefits:

On March 1, 2019, New Jersey becomes the first state to require employers to offer pre-tax transportation benefits to employees. A pre-tax transportation fringe benefit is a benefit that allows an employee to set aside wages on a pre-tax basis, which is then only made available to the employee for the purchase of certain eligible transportation services, including transit passes and commuter highway vehicle travel (vanpooling).

  • Every employer in the State of New Jersey that employs at least 20 employees is required to offer transit benefits to all employees who are not currently covered by a collective bargaining agreement (however employers with collectively bargained employees will be required to offer this benefit to them once the bargaining agreement in effect as of March 1, 2019 expires);
  • An employee is identified as anyone hired or employed by the employer and who reports to the employer’s work location. This mirrors the definition used in New Jersey’s unemployment compensation law;
  • There is no exception for non-profits or state and local governmental employers;
  • If an employer has less than 20 employees, there is no requirement to offer the benefit at this time;
  • Employers must provide pre-tax election transportation benefits that provide commuter highway vehicle and transit benefits at the maximum benefit level allowed under federal law (Section 132(f)(2)). For 2019, the maximum benefit level is $265/month for commuter highway benefits and any transit pass combined, as well as $265/month for qualified parking;
  • The law is effective 3/1/19 but penalties for non-compliance will not be assessed until the earlier of March 1, 2020 or the effective date of any implementing rules and regulations;
  • Non-compliance, when enforced, will be a penalty of not less than $100 and not more than $250 for the first violation of failure to offer transit benefits. The employer will then have 90 days to offer the employees the benefit if a penalty is imposed;
  • Associated program costs are not deductible from federal corporate income tax. Employers will need to discuss any New Jersey tax-favored status with their tax advisers.

For now, employers should monitor developments and news regarding the program. The New Jersey Transit Corporation, in conjunction with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority will be conducting public awareness campaigns encouraging the public to contact employers about the benefit. Additionally, employers may want to start talking to third party administrators who can administer the transportation fringe benefit program.

Diversified Group can assist you in the administration of Section 132 Parking and Transportation benefits. Please call Jamie Fazio for a quote at 800-322-2524 Ext. 391.

Health Insurance Mandate:

In 2018, New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy signed into law The New Jersey Health Insurance Market Preservation Act. This law requires all New Jersey residents to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Lawmakers in New Jersey drafted this legislation in response to the decision to eliminate the ACA individual mandate with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Although the law focuses primarily on the individual market, there will be reporting requirements on employers that provide health insurance coverage to New Jersey residents staring for the 2019 tax year. Visit www.nj.gov for instructions on reporting (anticipated to be posted by mid-2019).

Individual penalties will mirror the ACA individual mandate penalties; the greater of 2.5% of an individual’s income or $695. The penalty will be capped at the average annual premium for bronze level plans in New Jersey (currently $3,012 per year). Revenue collected (estimated to be between $90M and $100M annually) will be used to fund New Jersey’s reinsurance pool.

The New Jersey law will require certain entities—employers that offer job-based coverage, insurers, and the New Jersey Department of Human Services—to comply with new reporting standards. Under the law, entities that provide MEC to a New Jersey resident will be required to submit a return to the state treasurer. Employers must provide the same information (Form 1094-C and Form 1095-C or Form 1094-B and Form 1095-B) for New Jersey that they currently provide to taxpayers and the IRS. Employers who already use Forms 1094-C or B, and Forms 1095-C or B, to report health coverage information federally, will be required to remit copies of these documents to the New Jersey Division of Taxation on or before February 15th following the close of each calendar year, beginning in 2020.

Out-of-State Employers of New Jersey Residents
Out-of-State employers that withhold and remit New Jersey Gross Income Tax for New Jersey residents have the same filing requirements as businesses located in New Jersey.

Adult Children
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, adult children up to the age of 26 may be covered by their parents’ health plan. New Jersey does not require Forms 1095-B or 1095-C be provided separately to children who are covered by their parents’ health plans, regardless of their residency, beyond the current requirement under 26 U.S.C. s.6055, as that section was in effect and interpreted on December 15, 2017. It is recommended employers advise employees to provide a copy of any Form 1095-B or 1095-C containing coverage information to their children residing in New Jersey.

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2019 PCOR Fee Increase

For 2019, the annual fee to fund the federal Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), paid by employers that sponsor self-insured health plans and by commercial group health insurance providers, will go up by about .06 cents per employee or dependent enrolled in the health plan. The fees are due by July 31. The chart below shows the fees to be paid in 2019, which rose slightly from the fees owed in 2018.

Plan Year Ending in 2018 Fee per Plan Enrollee for
July 31, 2019, Payment
Plan year ending on or after Oct. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2018, including calendar-year plans.

$2.45

Plan year ending on or after Jan. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2018

$2.39

For self-funded plans, the self-insured employer is responsible for submitting the fee and accompanying paperwork to the IRS. PCOR fees are reported on IRS Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return. On page two of Form 720, under Part II, the employer needs to designate the average number of covered lives under its applicable self-insured plan. Although the fee is paid annually, employers should indicate on the Payment Voucher (720-V)—located at the end of Form 720—that the tax period for the fee is the second quarter of the year. Failure to properly designate ‘2nd Quarter’ on the voucher will result in the IRS’s software generating a tardy filing notice.

Sponsors of self-insured health plans will pay their last PCOR fee by July 31, 2019 (for calendar-year plans) or by July 31, 2020 (for certain non-calendar year plans). The PCOR fee will no longer apply for policy and plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2019. The final filing for a calendar year plan will be July 31, 2019, with respect to the 2018 plan year.

Clients who have elected to have Diversified Group assist with the PCOR fee calculation can expect an email in June which will include a copy of the completed Form 720 and a PCOR calculation worksheet with supporting documentation. Clients will need to file the Form 720 by July 31, 2019.

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Updated Draft Regulations for MA Paid Family and Medical Leave

Compliance

The newly created Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave released updated draft regulations on March 29th for the new Paid Family and Medical Leave law. The Department will hold several listening sessions in May throughout the state before issuing final regulations sometime before July, 2019. Below is an outline of the draft regulations with pertinent information for employers concerning their obligations under the law.

Provision Description
Key Dates
  •  July 1, 2019, final regulations due and quarterly reporting instructions due;
  •  July 1, 2019, employers must begin employee payroll deductions;
  •  July 1, 2019, new hire notice distribution begins;
  •  July 1, 2019, informational posters must be displayed on or before this date;
  • October 31, 2019, contributions (employer and employee) for July through September due;
  •  January 1, 2021, most leave available;
  •  July 1, 2021, all leave available;
  •  January 1, 2023, Retaliation against an employee for exercising rights under the PFML will be prohibited.
Governing Agency The Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
Benefit Administrator The Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  Except for employee notification, quarterly reporting, collecting and remitting contributions, employers are not involved in the benefit determination or payment of benefits.  However, note that the DFML may contact the employer for information on an employee that applies for benefits.  When this happens, employers will have 5 business days to respond to DFML.
Covered Employers All employers (one or more employees) who are required to contribute to the Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance program (UI) must submit contributions on behalf of their employees to cover the portion of PFML contribution due from employees, as well as make their required employer contribution to the medical leave portion.  Employers with fewer than 25 employees must submit contributions on behalf of their employees, however they are not required to pay the employer portion of the contributions for medical leave. Cities and towns are exempt but can opt in to the program; employers not covered by UI can also opt in to the program.
Eligible Employees All employees who meet the monetary eligibility requirements of the state’s UI program (i.e. the employee must have earned 30 times the weekly unemployment benefit that the employee would be eligible to receive and must have earned at least $4,700 during the last four calendar quarters). No minimum hour requirement.

Additionally employees whose employer they contract with issues 1099-MISC to more than 50% of its workforce are covered employees.

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DOL’s Recent Clarification Surrounding FMLA

Page with FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) on the table with stethoscope, medical concept

The Department of Labor (DOL) on occasion will issue opinion letters to clarify employer’s obligations under various federal employment laws. These DOL opinion letters help employers to understand their obligations and can be relied upon to establish a “good faith” defense against certain federal claims.

On March 14, 2019, the DOL issued an opinion letter regarding FMLA leave and its coordination with other employer leave provisions. The DOL clarified that if an employee’s leave taken for medical reasons is deemed FMLA qualified, the employer must then designate the leave as FMLA leave within five business days and may not delay such designation even to accommodate or benefit its employee. In other words, if an employee requests to take paid PTO leave and delay the designation of qualified FMLA leave until after the paid PTO is exhausted, per this opinion letter, once an eligible employee communicates a need to take leave for a qualified FMLA reason, neither the employer nor the employee may decline FMLA protection for that leave. Thus, when an employer deems that leave is for a qualified FMLA reason, the leave counts toward the employee’s FMLA leave entitlement.

The employer may instead allow the employee to “stack” the FMLA leave and paid leave by allowing the employee to take the FMLA leave unpaid and to use any available paid leave upon exhaustion of the FMLA entitlement. Alternatively, the employer may require employees to utilize available paid leave concurrently with FMLA leave, thus paid leave counts toward the FMLA leave entitlement, and vice versa.

Employers should review applicable state leave laws that may offer additional or different benefits that may cause the DOL opinion letter to contradict existing precedent. For example, this opinion letter contradicts the 2014 Ninth Circuit Court’s case Escriba v Foster Poultry Farms, Inc. which found that an employee could affirmatively decline to exercise their FMLA rights, even when they clearly would have qualified, in order to preserve the FMLA rights for future use. Those employers in the Ninth Circuit jurisdiction (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) may want to consult their legal counsel prior to relying on this opinion letter.

It is intended for Diversified Group’s medical plan document language to correspond with an employer’s human resource practices. Our documents typically include language that FMLA will run concurrently with other leaves in compliance with the DOL’s intent. To ensure that your medical plan document and your HR practices are coordinated, we offer a gap analysis which looks at gaps between your plan document and your employee handbook with an eye to ensuring compliance with your plan document and your stop loss carrier’s requirements. Gap analysis is done at no cost to you. If you are interested in having a gap analysis completed, please contact either Dave Follansbee or Laura Williams at the contact information below.

Dave Follansbee – dfollansbee@diversifiedgb.com / 860-295-6531
Laura Williams – lwilliams@diversifiedgb.com / 860-612-8644

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