Washington D.C. has recently introduced major changes to its medical, family, and parental leave with the Universal Paid Leave Emergency Amendment Act (PLEAA). This Act which with some exceptions became effective on October 1st, amends the existing D.C. Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1990, and several other provisions relating to D.C.’s Paid Family Leave program.
Prior to these amendments, covered individuals were qualified for up to 2 weeks of medical leave, 8 weeks of parental leave, 6 weeks of family leave which, when combined, allowed a maximum of 8 workweeks in a given 52 week period. These new amendments give covered individuals 2 more workweeks of prenatal leave with added qualifying reasons. This leave is an additional leave that may be used separately from the existing parental leave.
This leave may be used for appointments, exams, and treatments related to pregnancy, prenatal physical therapy, and bed rest required or prescribed by a medical provider. The definition of a “qualifying medical event” that would allow an individual to use medical leave has also been amended to include medical treatment related to a miscarriage and stillbirth.
The PLEAA also increases the maximum duration of paid medical leave from 2 workweeks to 6 workweeks for claims beginning from September 26th, 2021. This increase will cease for all claims starting after September 30th, 2022. Notably, family and parental leave will remain at their former limits.
The combined maximum amount of leave allowable within a 52 week period will remain at 8 weeks with the exception of combined use of parental and prenatal leave, which would permit an individual to use 10 weeks of paid leave within a 52 week period.
Beginning in 2022, the maximum duration of paid leave may be updated annually, with availability subject to either increase or decrease, although the amount cannot drop below the amount available prior to October 1st, 2021. This will be based upon the projected balance of the Universal Paid Leave Fund and assuming its balance does not drop beneath the amount needed for an estimated nine months of benefits.
The PLEAA also made several changes to how leave benefits will be carried out, including how an individual’s weekly wages will be calculated for claims beginning after October 31st, 2021, and before the one-year mark after the end of the COVID-19 health emergency. Throughout this period, an individual’s average weekly wage that will be subject to contribution for claims will be calculated using the four quarters with the highest wages out of the previous 10 quarters.
The PLEAA will also temporarily suspend the one-week waiting period to receive benefits for claims starting after October 1st, 2021. Similar to the previous change, this will end one year after the end of the COVID-19 health emergency. Qualified individuals may also request retroactive benefits for claims made within 30 days of a qualifying leave event. When existent circumstances prevent an individual from making claims within this 30 day period, this requirement may be waived.
Employers will need to post an updated Paid Family Leave poster which is expected to be released sometime in the Fall of 2021 in their workplace by February 1st, 2022.