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District of Columbia Expands Paid Employee Leave

The District of Columbia has amended its Universal Paid Leave Act (UPLA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (DC FMLA). The amendments took effect on October 1, 2021, via emergency legislation and are set to expire on November 21, 2021, but an identical, permanent law is under Congressional review.

What Are the Amendments to UPLA?

The UPLA amendments include new permitted reasons for leave, expanded leave amounts and a suspension of the benefit waiting period. Key changes are highlighted below.

  • New Qualifying Reasons for Leave. The amendments will provide paid leave for prenatal medical care, at least through October 1, 2022. Prenatal leave covers health care provider appointments, exams and treatments associated with a pregnancy, including prenatal check-ups, ultrasounds, treatment for pregnancy complications, bed rest and physical therapy. The amendments also clarify that medical leave covers stillbirth and miscarriage.
  • Increase in Amount of Leave. Due to a surplus in the the UPLA fund, the following amounts of UPLA leave are allowed for claims filed from October 1, 2021, through September 30, 2022:
    • Eight weeks of parental leave (unchanged by the amendments);
    • Six weeks of family leave (unchanged by the amendments);
    • Six weeks of medical leave (previously two weeks); and
    • Two weeks of prenatal leave (new reason for leave).
  • Waiting Period. The one-week employee waiting period for benefits is temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 emergency.
  • UPLA and Coordination of Short-term Disability Insurance Benefits. As a reminder, due to the emergency amendment to the UPLA that passed earlier this summer and which were renewed in the new law, short-term or temporary disability insurers are not permitted to offset or reduce benefits or income to claimants based on the availability of UPLA payments. As a result, employees may double dip and receive more than 100 percent of their pay.

What Are the Amendments to DC FMLA?

Employees are now eligible for DC FMLA if they have worked for their employer for 1,000 hours for 12 months which may be non-consecutive months, as long as all periods of employment occurred within the past seven years, previously, the 12 months worked needed to be consecutive.

Next Steps for Employers

With the likelihood that this temporary measure will become permanent, employers should consider updating any policies or procedures that may be affected by these changes, including parental leave, family and medical leave, disability, and other related policies. Employers should also ensure that all human resource personnel and managers/supervisors who have responsibilities for addressing leave requests have been trained on available leave options.

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