And Now . . . Washington D.C. PFML

Posted on: January 24, 2020 0

by Marti Cardi, Esq – Vice President Product Compliance

January 23, 2020

The next paid family and medical leave program to go live with payment of benefits – in the District of Columbia – is on the horizon.  D.C.’s Universal Paid Leave (UPL) program was passed in 2017, and employers with employees in the District started paying contributions to the program on July 1, 2019. The District will start paying benefits on July 1, 2020.

First Up – Employer notice obligations.

Under DC UPL, employers have several notice obligations:

  • By February 1, 2020, employers must post a physical notice of the UPL program in a conspicuous
    place in each workplace. In addition, employers must send the notice to remote workers so they
    can post it in their individual workplaces.  (Right, like that will happen.)  The notice form is available here.
  • In addition, this notice must be provided in electronic or physical form to:
    • All employees at least once between February 1, 2020 and February 1, 2021 and at least
      once a year every following year;
    • All new employees hired after February 1, 2020, within 30 days after the date of hire; and
    • Individual employees when the employer receives direct notice after February 1, 2020,
      of the employee’s need for leave for an event that could qualify for PFL benefits.
Matrix can help its clients with DC employees to satisfy this individual notice requirement.  We will update the informational packet sent to DC employees to include the required notice when any leave is requested. 

Summary of Universal Paid Leave provisions:

As a reminder, here’s what’s coming your way as an employer with D.C. employees:

Covered Employee
During some or all of the 52 weeks immediately preceding leave:

  • Spends more than 50% of work time in DC or
  • Spends a substantial amount of work time in DC and not more than 50% of work time
    in another jurisdiction
Covered Employer All employers with one or more covered employees except:

  • The United States
  • The District of Columbia, and
  • Any employer that the District of Columbia is not authorized to tax under federal law or treaty
Leave Reasons
  • Employee’s own serious health condition (defined very similar to FMLA)
  • Family member’s serious health condition
  • Bonding with new child (birth, adoption, foster placement)
Covered Family Members
  • Son or daughter (any age)
  • Parent (including step, in-law, and others)
  • Spouse / domestic partner
  • Sibling
  • Grandparent
Duration in a 52-week period
  • Employee’s serious health condition:  2 weeks
  • Parental/bonding leave:  8 weeks
  • Family member serious health condition:  6 weeks
  • TOTAL may not exceed 8 weeks of paid leave benefits in 52-workweek period
Leave Use Increments
  • Continuously or
  • Intermittently in increments of no less than one day
Benefit Amount

 

 

  • Employees who make 150% or less than the District’s minimum wage multiplied by 40
    will receive 90% of their average weekly wage.
  • Employees who make greater than 150% of the District’s minimum wage
    multiplied by 40 will receive:

    • 90% of 150% of the of the District’s minimum wage
      multiplied by 40; PLUS
    • 50% of the amount by which the eligible individual’s
      average weekly wage exceeds 150% of the District’s minimum wage multiplied by 40
Maximum Benefit
  • $1,000/week thru 9/30/2021
  • Adjusts annually as of October 1 each year thereafter
Waiting Period
  • One week for first qualifying event per 52-week period
  • No waiting period for subsequent qualifying events in same 52-week period
    regardless of type or number
Funding Mechanism Employers pay a tax of 0.62% of their payroll to the District to fund the program
Administration
  • Office of Paid Family Leave (a division of the DC Department of Employment Services)
  • No voluntary plans or private insurance permitted
Existing Employer Paid Leave Benefits
  • An employer can adopt or retain paid-leave policies that supplement or
    otherwise provide greater benefits than are required by UPL
  • But doing so does not exempt employer from paying UPL contributions or
    preclude employee from receiving UPL benefits
Job Protection

 

  • ONLY IF employee works for an employer with 20 or more employees and is
    eligible for concurrent leave under the existing DC FMLA (see below)
  • Employees of smaller employers can take paid leave but do not have job protections

 

EMPLOYERS BEWARE:  The broader D.C. FMLA law is still in effect

Unlike the state of Washington, which repealed its unpaid Family Leave Act to coincide with the effective date of Washington PFML, the D.C. UPL does not affect the District’s existing unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act.  That Act applies to employers with 20 or more employees and provides job-protected leave for the same reasons as UPL but in much greater amounts:  Up to 16 weeks each in a 24-month period for employee medical leave and family leave reasons.  Leaves will run concurrently if the leave qualifies under the two laws.  However, because the thresholds for covered employers and employee eligibility are lower under UPL, some employees may be entitled to UPL leave but not DC FMLA leave and thus be without job protection.  As always, the federal FMLA will run concurrently with either law if it applies.

For more information, check out these resources: 

Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016

Paid leave regulations:

D.C. Office of Paid Family Leave

Department of Employment Services

Poster

 

 

Washington PFML – The New Mandatory Notice to Employees: What You Need to Know about UBI Numbers, Supplemental Benefits, and STD Benefits

Posted on: January 4, 2020 0

by Marti Cardi, Esq – Vice President Product Compliance 

January 2, 2020 

 

PLEASE NOTE we had a few holiday technical difficulties here at Matrix-Radar, and this post was distributed in a timely fashion to Matrix clients through our account managers; but actual posting on the site was delayed. We believe we have resolved the issue and apologize for the delay!

 

On about December 20, 2019, the Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) released its form for the mandatory notice to employees using PFML for more than 7 consecutive days.  We wrote about the new notice form (and the new mandatory poster, also just released) here.  

Employers have many questions about the notice to employees and some of its content.  Here’s what we presently know:

Why is this info coming out just now?  There is frustration all around at the timing of this information.  We at Matrix, Washington employers, and other external stakeholders did not know what the state’s mandatory notice form would include until it was released a few days ago.  So, no advance notice for employers to be ready to distribute its UBI number(s) and alert employees to the designation of any specific benefits as “supplemental.”  A better-than-previous explanation of supplemental benefits was added recently to the ESD Paid Leave website.  See below.  

What employers need to do.  Employers have two action items relating to this new notice form, both of which are necessary for the employee to file a claim for leave and benefits under the state plan with the ESD:

  • Provide employees with the employer’s UBI number
  • Determine and tell employees whether any additional company-offered pay benefits
    available during PFML leave are “supplemental benefits.”

Read on for more details. As we explain below, Matrix will include the ESD notice form in our packets as a courtesy, but employers are still ultimately responsible for getting the appropriate information to their employees.  

The UBI number.  The new form has a place to provide employees with their employer’s Unique Business Identifier number (UBI – similar to a federal FEIN).  Why?  Employees of employers using the state plan to provide benefits must file their PFML claims with the ESD on line.  It appears that ESD can locate an employee in their system with the employer’s UBI number, and not by use of the employee’s social security number or other individual identifier.  As a result, the employee will need his employer’s UBI number before he can complete a claim.  

For Matrix clients using the state plan, employees should still call Matrix early in the leave process so that we can assess the employee’s absence and apply any leaves or benefits that may be applicable in addition to WA PFML.  As a courtesy, we will include the ESD’s stock notice form in the employee’s initial packet sent after the intake call but the employer’s UBI number will be blank.  The employee will have to obtain the number from the employer’s HR, intranet, or other means.  Be sure to make all of your Washington UBI number(s) readily available (and designated by entity, if your company has more than one entity with employees in Washington). 

“Supplemental benefits.”  Another surprise on the mandatory notice form is the question, This employer offers supplemental benefits: Y _____ N _____.”   The concept of supplemental benefits has raised a lot of questions and the new form is bringing them to the forefront.  We touched on the issue of benefits and possible stacking in our prior blog post here. 

In a nutshell, here are the three key points – these apply to both Washington paid medical leave and paid family leave:  

  • Forms of remuneration paid to employees during PFML leave that are not
    designated as “Supplemental” will reduce the Washington PFML benefit and
    will be considered “wages” for employer reporting to the ESD.
  • Forms of remuneration that are designated as “Supplemental” will top off
    the Washington PFML but are not considered “wages” for employer reporting
    to the ESD.
  • Employers will need to alert payroll to the differing treatment of additional
    payments to employees treated as supplemental benefits.  

Here are the details.  According to the PFML statute, employers can designate certain company benefits as “supplemental benefits” to enrich the amount an employee receives during PFML usage.  Supplemental benefits may include salary continuation, vacation leave, sick leave, or other paid time off.  WAC 192-500-180.  They do NOT include STD benefits – see explanation below.

The designation of these top-up or enriched payments as “supplemental benefits” makes a big difference to the employee and the employer.  If the employer simply pays the company benefit (for example, allows the employee to use accrued PTO), that payment actually reduces the employee’s PFML benefit, as the ESD will offset that payment against the PFML benefits available.  In the end, the employee still only receives the maximum statutory amount but now the employer is paying part of that total.  

On the other hand, if the employer “designates” that PTO or other company benefit as supplemental, then the employee’s PFML benefits remain intact; the employer payment to the employee truly tops off the PFML benefit.  In that case, however, the employer cannot include the amount of the supplemental payments in its quarterly reporting of wages per employee or to calculate employee premiums. 

What is still not clear is when and how an employer “designates” benefits as supplemental.  There is no explanation in the statute or the rules.  Apparently, it is just a matter of applying that label and notifying the employee so that she knows not to report to ESD such supplemental benefits as “wages” when she files a claim.  Employers may want to consider amending their employment policies to make the designation.  

You can read the ESD’s guidance on supplemental benefits and its explanation of “wages” on pages 16 and 9, respectively, of the Employer toolkit (Dec. 19, 2019 version).

STD benefits are allowed during PFML leave.  On a side note, the ESD has also clarified that an employee can receive STD benefits without those serving as an offset to PFML benefits and, apparently, without having them designated as supplemental benefits.  Here is an excerpt from the ESD Employer Toolkit (page 16, Dec. 19, 2019 version):

Can my employee receive short term disability and Paid Family and Medical Leave at the same time? 

A worker can receive short-term disability at the same time as Paid Family and Medical Leave. A worker can’t receive wages or paid time off at the same time as Paid Family and Medical Leave, and all other compensation is allowed if you offer it to your employees. Paid time off could be used as a supplemental benefit, see that section for details. 

Quick note for Matrix clients with voluntary plans:  Our clients for whom Matrix is administering a voluntary plan do not need to convey the UBI number to employees.  You will still need to make the determination of whether company benefits provided during use of PFML are “supplementary” as that will affect your quarterly reporting to ESD.  Matrix will make any company sponsored STD or Paid Family/Parental benefit payments to your employees as a top-off to the WA PFML payments unless you tell us that they are receiving benefits that are NOT designated as supplemental. 

QUESTIONS?  Contact your Matrix or Reliance Standard account manager if you have questions.

Washington PFML Employer Notices Now Available – and Other Developments

Posted on: January 4, 2020 0

by Marti Cardi, Esq – Vice President Product Compliance

December 23, 2019

 

PLEASE NOTE we had a few holiday technical difficulties here at Matrix-Radar, and this post was distributed in a timely fashion to Matrix clients through our account managers; but actual posting on the site was delayed. We believe we have resolved the issue and apologize for the delay!

 

Hold on to your egg nog.  Pretty soon we will turn our attention to other topics, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oregon, and whatever new states join the PFML bandwagon in 2020.  For now, Washington is sucking up all the oxygen in the room as we sprint for the January 1, 2020, start of benefits.  Stay tuned for other topics another day!

Time is short, so let’s get right to the point.  The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) has FINALLY released its approved – and required – employer notices to employees.  There are two, and we wrote about them in our WA PFML update post here. At that point the notices were not available, but now, just in time for the start of benefits on January 1, 2020, here they are:

Poster.  Employers must post in conspicuous places on the premises of the employer where notices to employees and applicants for employment are customarily posted, a notice to employees of the pertinent provisions of the WA PFML statute.  RCW 50A.20.020.  The PFML rules explain this can be a common area such as a break room.  WAC 192-540-020.  Electronic posting for remote workers is not addressed.  In the absence of ESD guidance, employers should use some reasonable means to ensure that all employees have easy access to the poster.  You can download the poster here.

Although Matrix does not usually weigh in on workplace posting requirements, we will assist our voluntary plan clients by redesigning the poster to inform their employees how to apply for benefits through Matrix.  We will also make any other changes that are needed due to differences in information relating to the state plan and a voluntary plan.

Notice to an employee taking leave.    One of the (many) odd provisions of the PFML statute requires  employers to give individual notice to employees of their rights, but only after the employer is aware that an employee is taking time off for more than 7 consecutive days of work for a covered leave reason.   In that case, the employer must let the employee know he or she may qualify for Paid Family and Medical Leave by sending the notice created by the state to the employee within five business days.  This seems nonsensical; no individual notice is required for employees who take leave for fewer than 7+ consecutive days and those who are using leave intermittently, and yet they are entitled to paid leave.  Remember, an employee has to be off work only 8 consecutive HOURS in a work week to satisfy the waiting period and be eligible for pay benefits and leave.    

At Matrix we feel a better practice is to give that individual employee notice as soon as the employer knows the employee is taking leave for a PFML-covered reason.  Why wait and count for more than 7 consecutive days of work?  We will include the mandatory state notice in our packets for clients who are using the state plan to provide benefits, and will modify the notice appropriately for the employees of our voluntary plan clients to comply with the law.

Certification of Serious Health Condition form. The ESD also recently released its certification form to support an employee’s leave due to the employee’s own or a family member’s serious health condition.  Oh, my.  Where to start.  The form is woefully inadequate to equip the ESD to manage anything other than the simplest continuous leave claim.  Unlike the federal FMLA Certification of Health Care Provider, the ESD form has no questions about medical facts, what parts of the employee’s job he cannot perform due to incapacity, when or how often the employee will need time off for medical appointments, and – most alarming of all – no place for the employer to provide the estimated frequency and duration of time off for intermittent leave.  There are other flaws as well but these are key.  

Apparently the ESD will simply approve intermittent time submitted by the employee without any means to judge whether the specific time off is medically necessary and fits within the anticipated frequency and duration of intermittent leave for the employee’s or family member’s serious health condition.  Administering intermittent leave under the FMLA even with this type of information is challenging.  Can you say “excessive use”?  That’s the polite term.

There is a bit of good news here.  The ESD will also accept the FMLA certification form, and that is what Matrix will be using for its voluntary plan clients.  An employee applying for benefits under the state plan can also use the FMLA form obtained for that purpose and forego use of the state form – and possibly a second fee by the provider.  

ESD website.  Finally, we want to point out that the ESD has made many changes to its website very recently.  Everything is reorganized, there is a new look and feel, and a lot of new or updated material has been added.  You can start on the ESD paid leave home page https://paidleave.wa.gov/.  We recommend reviewing both the employer- and employee-specific pages, as you will learn not only what you must do as an employer, but what your employees are being informed by the state.

MATRIX CAN HELP!

Matrix has designed a WA PFML voluntary plan for our participating clients.  We have filed and received approval for over 40 such plans.  In preparation for January 1 claims, we have made necessary system changes, added WA PFML to our letters and packets, prepared extensive training for our claims staff, and are now adapting the required employer notices for voluntary plan participants.  If the thought of the state administering your employees’ claims has you concerned, contact your Matrix or Reliance Standard account manager to learn more about our voluntary plan offering.

Hello Again, Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave

Posted on: December 3, 2019 0

by Marti Cardi, Esq – Vice President Product Compliance

December 3, 2019

 

Here it comes!  Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits are on the horizon, starting January 1.  While we’ve been a bit quiet about WA PFML on this blog lately, we’ve been busy in the background.  So has the state Employment Security Department (ESD) which is charged with administering the state plan and monitoring employers’ voluntary plans.  Sadly, there is much yet to be done by the ESD and time is running short; but we at Matrix are in good shape!

Here’s an update of things from Matrix’s point of view.

Notices to employees #1

The PFML statute requires employers to provide two notices to employees about the program.  The first is a general workplace posting setting forth excerpts from, or summaries of, the pertinent provisions of the statute and information pertaining to the filing of a complaint. (RCW 50A.20.020.)  This is to be in a form prepared or approved by the ESD.  Unfortunately, the notice is not yet available.  Here is what the ESD Paid Leve Website says:

A mandatory poster to notify employees of the program will be available before Jan. 1, 2020. If you would like something to share with your employees prior to that, download our optional paystub insert to distribute or post.

Notices to employees #2

The second notice requirement applies only after an employee experiences 7 consecutive days of absence for PFML reasons.  (RCW 50A.20.010.)  This notice must be provided “within five business days after the employee’s seventh consecutive day of absence due to family or medical leave, or within five business days after the employer has received notice that the employee’s absence is due to family or medical leave, whichever is later.”  This notice form, also to be provided by the ESD, is likewise not yet available; they expect to have it ready before January 1.

The notice requirement will rarely apply to an intermittent leave due to the nature of such leave (a day or two off, here and there).  However, the ESD has confirmed that a notice earlier than after 7 days, as soon as the employer knows the employee is absent for a covered reason, will satisfy this requirement.  Our advice, then, is to provide the notice at the outset of a covered leave rather than waiting and counting for 7 consecutive days of absence.

The good news?  Matrix has you covered!  Once it is available from the state we will include the notice in our packets for all clients with a Washington workforce.

Weekly claim filing

The PFML statute is patterned after the state’s unemployment scheme.  It requires weekly claim filing by the employee which, in the unemployment context makes sense as an employee may obtain employment any day of the week.  But for paid family and medical leave benefits – especially continuous leave – this seems unwieldy.  Say an employee is having surgery and his provider certifies that he will need at least 6 weeks off for the surgery and recovery.  Or an employee requests bonding leave for 12 weeks.  Does it make sense to require a weekly claim and have the state address and adjudicate the claim every week, or just once at the outset?  Oh well, the statute says weekly and that is what will be required of your employees under the state plan.

Under voluntary plans administered by Matrix, however, we will waive the weekly filing requirement (an employer can provide better benefits AND processes under a voluntary plan), thus saving your employees time and hassle, and providing greater certainty to both you and your employee regarding leave approval and benefits.

Minimum claim duration – 8 consecutive hours

According to the WA PFML statute, an employee must miss at least 8 consecutive hours of work to establish a claim.  This applies both during the 7-day waiting period and for subsequent weeks in which leave is taken (since the employee has to file a claim weekly).   So, for example, an employee could meet the 8-consecutive-hours requirement by missing a single 8-hour (or more) shift, by missing 3 scheduled hours Wednesday afternoon and the next 5 scheduled hours Thursday morning, or by missing 2 consecutive scheduled 4-hour shifts.

Once the employee has been absent for a covered reason for 8 consecutive hours, all other hours missed during the week (from the preceding Sunday through Saturday) then become part of that week’s claim for job-protected leave and benefits.   Here’s another example:  An employee misses 3 hours on Monday, a full 8-hour shift on Wednesday, then 2 hours on Friday.  The Monday and Friday hours are both eligible for leave and pay (as well as the 8 hours) because they fall within a week during which the 8-consecutive-hours requirement was met.

Unfortunately, this scheme may have the consequence of encouraging employees to take more time off than they need to meet that 8-consecutive-hours requirement.  If an employee takes time off for a legitimate PFML-covered reason but doesn’t really need 8 consecutive hours, he might be tempted to take more time to get the job protection for what he really needed.  Otherwise the employee who needs, say, only 4 hours per week for physical therapy or due to a bad back flare-up will be without job protection and pay, and/or have to use his PTO to cover the absence.

For clients with a Matrix-administered voluntary plan, we are recommending that the employer waive the requirement to miss 8 consecutive hours to establish a claim, either in its entirety or at least after the employee has satisfied the waiting period.  This will allow coordination of leave usage between WA PFML and the federal FMLA, if both apply.

Possible stacking (or consecutive use) of multiple leave benefits

Consider this from the WA PFML statute:

RCW 50A.15.060 (2) An employer may offer supplemental benefit payments to an employee on family or medical leave in addition to any paid family or medical leave benefits the employee is receiving. Supplemental benefit payments include, but are not limited to, vacation, sick, or other paid time off. The choice to receive supplemental benefit payments lies with the employee. Nothing in this section shall be construed as requiring an employee to receive or an employer to provide supplemental benefit payments.

And this from the WA PFML rules:

 WAC 192-610-075   WAC 192-610-075 Employers may not require employees to take paid vacation leave, paid sick leave, or other forms of paid time off provided by the employer before, in place of, or concurrently with paid family or medical leave benefits.

What does this mean?  It means that if you offer paid time off benefits of any kind – general PTO, vacation, sick leave (voluntary or statutory), short term disability, etc. – the employee gets to choose whether to use those benefits before, during, or after Washington PFML.  Further, there is nothing in the WA PFML statute that allows an employer to designate time off for a covered reason if the employee doesn’t want to do so; and the ESD interprets the statute as prohibiting the employer from doing so.  The result is that it may be possible for an employee eligible for both FMLA and WA PFML to take up to 30 weeks of leave, 18 of it paid under PFML.  Here is an example:

  • Jane is eligible for both WA PFML and FMLA.  She wants to take time off to care for her mother who has
    a serious health condition – a leave reason covered by both FMLA and WA PFML.  If Jane can elect to
    take time off but not apply for WA PFML benefits initially, she may be able to take up to 12 weeks of
    job-protected FMLA leave (because the employee does NOT get to choose whether to use FMLA) and
    then take 12 more weeks of paid and job-protected leave under WA PFML (assuming she is still eligible
    for WA PFML).

Disability benefits also cannot be forced on the employee concurrently with PFML (or vice versa), so it is important to design your STD plan carefully to make benefits available only in circumscribed situations.

Pings for Employers

It’s hard to keep up with what’s going on in Washington, and it’s a bit nerve-wracking to be so close to live claims and not have all the answers.  Many of the administrative rules supporting the WA PFML program are not yet finalized and aren’t expected to be until about December 20.  How’s that for calling it close?  Here are some suggestions that will help you stay as informed as possible.

  • If you are a Matrix Washington voluntary plan client, attend our internal webinar explaining everything
    Matrix has done, is doing, will do to keep you compliant.
    The second session is Wednesday December 4 – contact your Matrix or RSL account manager if
    you need details.
      (The session will be recorded but it’s best to attend live so you can ask questions.)
  • Visit the ESD website here. Review the Employer and Employee pages to get as much information as possible.
  • Sign up for the ESD newsletters in the SUBSCRIBE box at the bottom of that home page.
  • For live answers to questions call the ESD Customer Care Team at 833-717-2273
  • Review the WA PFML statute.
  • Review the WA PFML rules enacted to date and check on progress on final rules on the ESD Rulemaking page.
  • Sign up for informative webinars for employees and employers, rulemaking hearings, and more at the
    Events link at the bottom of the home page.
  • Keep watching this blog!

MATRIX CAN HELP!

Matrix has designed a WA PFML voluntary plan for our participating clients.  We have filed and received approval for over 40 such plans.  In preparation for January 1 claims, we have made necessary system changes, added WA PFML to our letters and packets, prepared extensive training for our claims staff, and are now holding educational webinars for our clients with voluntary plans administered by Matrix.  If the thought of the state administering your employees’ claims has you concerned, contact your Matrix or Reliance Standard account manager to learn more about our voluntary plan offering.

Washington PFML Developments Keep Us Hopping

Posted on: April 8, 2019 0

By Marti Cardi, Vice President Product Compliance Gail Cohen, Director Employment Law & Compliance

April 8, 2019

Despite my recent advice to Washington employers to “sit back and relax,” I now have to say: Don’t get too comfortable with all things Washington PFML.  Although employers have been required to withhold premium contributions from employee paychecks (or waive such withholding) since January 1, lots of pieces are still in motion.  We recently blogged about the delay in premium payments and reporting to the state here.  Now:

  • The governor has signed into law some amendments to the PFML statute relating to employee benefits, the
    waiting period, voluntary plans, and more.
  • The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) has finalized its Phase Three Rules, which relate
    in part to claims handling procedures.

Amendments to Washington PFML

The full bill as passed can be reviewed here. These are some of the more significant changes:

Waiting period

Employees must satisfy a 7-day waiting period before they can start receiving benefits. Prior to the PFML amendments, it was unclear how that waiting period would work. The law now states more clearly that the waiting period consists of “the first 7 consecutive calendar days” (rather than the previous version, “first 7 calendar days of leave”).  The amendments further clarify that the waiting period starts when an eligible employee takes leave for the minimum claim duration of 8 hours.  So, once an employee’s leave for a qualifying reason begins, he can start receiving benefits 7 calendar days later (if the leave continues beyond that) rather than having to take 7 days of leave before getting benefits.

And a reminder:  No waiting period is required for leave for the birth or placement of a child.

Topping off PFML benefits

The original PFML law had a strange provision that prohibited employers from allowing employees to use other pay benefits during a PFML leave. This has been corrected to align more closely with PFML laws in other states. Now, once benefits start in 2020, an employer may offer “supplemental benefit payments” to an employee on family or medical leave in addition to any paid family or medical leave benefits the employee is receiving.  Supplemental benefit payments include, but are not limited to, vacation, sick, or other paid time off.  Employers are not required to offer supplemental pay benefits.  If offered, the choice whether to use them lies with the employee – the employer cannot force the employee to use such benefits.

Voluntary plans

The PFML amendments affect voluntary plans as follows:

    • Payment of benefits from only one plan. An employee may only receive payment of benefits for
      family leave, medical leave, or both from one approved plan at a time. If an employee is simultaneously
      covered by more than one approved plan, the employee will receive benefits only under the plan for
      which the employee has worked the most hours during the employee’s qualifying period.  From the
      context of this amendment, it appears that this applies whether the simultaneously applicable plans
      are 2 voluntary plans or a voluntary plan and the state plan.

What is NOT clear (and we’ll be asking questions of the ESD) is whether the employee receives benefits limited to the amount attributed to that one plan only, or receives benefits equivalent to his entitlement under all applicable plans, but only paid by the plan of the employer for whom the employee has worked the most hours in the qualifying period.  If that is the case (we hope not), how would the paying plan know how much is owed to the employee under other applicable plans?

    • Waiver of voluntary plan eligibility. To be eligible for benefits under a voluntary plan, an employee
      must have worked both 820 hours within the state during the qualifying period, and 340 hours for
      the employee with the voluntary plan (the 340 hours can count toward/be a subset of the 820 hours).
      An employee who commences work with a new employer with a voluntary plan is eligible for benefits
      immediately if she was eligible under a voluntary plan with her previous employer.  Otherwise, that
      340-hours-of-work for the new employer requirement applies before she can receive benefits.
      Pursuant to the new amendments, however, an employer with an approved voluntary plan may waive
      the 820 and/or 340 hours worked requirements, in whole or in part, to allow an employee to be
      immediately eligible for coverage under the employer’s voluntary plan
      .

Phase Three Final Rules.

A bit of background:  States pass the laws that require employers to provide paid family and medical.    The laws establish the basic structure of employee and employer rights and obligations.  Then the state agency that will be responsible for implementation, administration, and enforcement of the law passes rules or regulations (same thing, basically) that fill in the details needed to administer the law and advise employers and employees how to comply.

The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) designed a process to draft, revise, and finalize its PFML rules in six phases.  The final version of the Phase Three rules have been released.  These are important because they address the claims handling procedures, including:

  • Defining a claim year
  • Employee notice requirements (timing and content)
  • Process and timing for application of benefits
  • Requirements for documentation of the leave request (certification contents, timing, etc.)

The Phase Three rules are available here.

What Matrix is doing:

  • Employers can still file for approval of a voluntary plan at any time. Matrix has a template for
    voluntary plans and a complete process for submitting plans for approval on behalf of clients.
  • Now that the Phase Three rules are finalized, Matrix is developing claims handling procedures,
    employee 
    communications, training for our employees, and other necessary processes. We will
    be ready for claims 
    management for our clients with voluntary plans when benefits are available,
    starting January 1, 2020.
  • Matrix continues to pose questions to the Washington ESD for provisions of the law and rules that are
    still not clear.

MATRIX WILL BE READY ON JANUARY 1, 2020.  WILL YOU?

If you want to learn more contact us at ping@matrix.com or through your Account Manager.