Today I had the honor of attending the bill signing for Connecticut’s new paid family leave law. In what feels like a past life (but is really just a past job), I co-chaired the Campaign for Paid Family Leave with my dear friend Catherine. Being part of that campaign is one of the highlights of my career so far. There are so many incredible advocates that worked for this including (but definitely *not* limited to) Connecticut AARP, CT Working Families, Planned Parenthood and CT NARAL, many small business owners, and most importantly, the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund who saw this legislation through from start to finish, ultimately led by the incredibly talented Maddie Granato (I could not be more proud of her).
Alright, alright, I’ll get to what you really want to know. Thanks for indulging me in some special celebratory shout outs.
Connecticut is the 7th state in the country to pass a system of paid family leave and ours is being touted as the most comprehensive. When the program goes into effect in 2022 you will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off (up to $900/week) in the event of pregnancy/birth or adoption of a child, for your own serious illness, or to care for a sick child or ill loved one. If you have pregnancy complications you can apply for an extra two weeks of leave. You can also use the leave intermittently, instead of in one chunk and the 12 weeks renews annually.
There are so many parts of this legislation that I am just so thrilled about. Currently, a lot of workers aren’t even covered under unpaid FMLA because it only applies to larger companies. Under our new law, ALL workers will be covered. ALL WORKERS! And you won’t need to work for a company for a full year to use your benefits. And your leave will be job protected!
The program will be funded by employee contributions of .5% (which for most people is $2-3/week) because it’s the only way to make it sustainable (contributions will start to be deducted in 2021). You don’t need to opt in and you can’t opt out. I know there are people who will say that they shouldn’t have to pay into something they think they will never need to use, but the thing is you can’t predict an emergency. If you have a heart attack, a serious car accident, or if your parent or child suddenly becomes very sick, you’ll have the peace of mind to know that you can take paid time off from work.
Lastly, advocates really pushed to make sure that the definition of family member is as inclusive as possible. Connecticut’s new law will allow you to use the leave to care for a family member or someone that is the “equivalent of a family member.” Families come in all different types, and some people are closer with their cousins than their parents, or their friends are truly their family. I’m so proud that our law recognizes that love makes a family, not just blood.
I hope this synopsis helps explain any questions you might have about Connecticut’s new paid family leave system. For some of you who are pregnant right now, that 2022 program start date feels very far away. But the state needs time to enact the legislation and build the necessary infrastructure before it can begin.
I’m so darn proud that Connecticut has chosen to value its workers as human beings with full lives that from time-to-time need a little help in managing their family responsibilities or health crises. So darn proud.