Employer Challenges Emerge With State and Local Paid Leave Laws

Jun 04, 2018
| David Pearson
Challenges with Paid Family Leave

New and changing employment laws can have profound impacts on businesses. Because of this, it’s critical for employers of all sizes to keep up with updates taking place at each level of the government to maintain HR compliance.

However, one changing employment law is making this a bigger challenge, especially for employers who operate in more than one state – Paid Family Leave (PFL).

Several states and Washington D.C. have introduced legislation that offers or expands paid family leave beyond the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). To further complicate matters for employers, local levels of the government are also enacting their own paid leave laws.
 

State and Local Paid Leave Legislation

With many workers and state lawmakers unhappy with federal laws around paid leave, states and municipalities have taken it upon themselves to enact stronger legislation.

This stems from the fact that many see issues and gaps with the FMLA. For example:
 
  • Time off is unpaid
  • There are numerous restrictions on who is eligible
  • Only employees of companies with 50 or more workers are eligible for leave, leaving out employees of smaller businesses

So far California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island have legislation on the books that currently require paid family leave.

New York’s paid family leave law is considered to be one of the most generous in the entire country. The legislation went into effect at the beginning of the new year, and will continue to increase the number of paid leave weeks until 2021, when it reaches 12 weeks for qualified workers.

However, not just states are getting involved with paid leave legislation. Even municipalities are enacting laws at the local level to improve paid leave for workers in their areas.

At both the state and local level, more PFL laws are expected to take effect in the coming years:
 
  • Washington D.C. – set to take effect in July 2020
  • Washington – set to take effect sometime in 2020
  • New Hampshire – bill passed forward in February 2018

And other states and local governments are currently discussing legislation that could further impact employers.
 

What Do All These Different Paid Family Leave Laws Mean for Employers?

The greater focus on paid family leave throughout the United States is something that employers of all sizes must stay up-to-date with.

The challenge that many employers face, especially those who operate within multiple states or municipalities, is that they may have to maintain compliance with more than one PFL law.

Because definitions and language can vary greatly from one law to the next, it means employers would have to enact different paid leave policies based on locations. This can become incredibly complex and expensive, especially for smaller companies who don’t have the same available legal and HR resources as Fortune-500 organizations.

However, failing to comply at any level could result in severe penalties and fines for employers, along with potential lawsuits from employees.

Now more than ever, employers need to stay on top of all the latest developments around paid leave laws, including at the local level of the government.
 

How Can Smaller Employers Stay Compliant with Paid Family Leave?

HR compliance is more complex and time consuming today than ever before. Paid family leave laws in particular are creating perhaps the biggest challenges for employers.

For smaller companies who may lack the in-house resources necessary to properly handle legislation changes, seeking outside assistance from HR compliance experts can be beneficial.

Additionally, seeking your brokers help with identifying potential partners can be a great resource.

Employers must ensure that they meet ALL paid family leave requirements in each state and municipality that they operate in, or face potential penalties.

By staying on top of the latest news and understanding which laws apply, employers can ensure that company policies are crafted appropriately, and compliance is maintained.

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