About 60% of Connecticut businesses required to register for the state’s Paid Family Medical Leave program had registered ahead of Monday’s deadline, officials said during an online press conference.
Of the 110,000 employers required to register with the CT Paid Leave Authority, only around 66,000 had as of the March 1 deadline, the authority’s CEO, Andrea Barton Reeves said. That leaves about 44,000 businesses in the state not complying with the newly-enacted law.
Beginning in 2022, the program should allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for medical and family emergencies. But the program anticipates a .5% payroll deduction as of Jan. 1, and businesses have been slow to comply. The authority delayed the deadline once, pushing it from Feb. 1 to March 1. About 20,000 businesses signed up during that extended window, Barton Reeves said.
Despite the deadline in the rearview mirror, officials encouraged businesses to continue registering. Employers cannot remit payments without registering with the authority and the first payments are due at the end of the quarter on April 1. Barton Reeves said there is a 30-day grace period pushing the maximum due date to April 30.
“Even if you’ve missed the registration date of today, please just continue to come in and register,” she said.
If businesses wait too long to register and begin withholding the .5% from paychecks, they may find themselves on the hook for some of that money. Through June, the state limits to 1% the amount that employers can withhold from workers if they need to catch up. If that’s not enough, the paid leave authority will look to non-compliant businesses — rather than their employees — to cough up the difference.
“We’d really rather not have those conversations with employers,” Barton Reeves said. “We’re not here to penalize businesses. We’re trying to have as much of a cooperative relationship as we can.”
Reeves said the authority’s work with third-party payroll companies may close some of the remaining gap in the number of businesses that need to register. The group is currently working with two large payroll providers who represent somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 employers. Those employers will likely be registered by the end of March, she said. Payroll provider ADP has already registered about 20,000 Connecticut businesses, she said.
There was little talk of deadlines or penalties during Monday’s press conference, which instead stressed the importance of the underlying policy, especially in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The program was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont in 2019, before COVID-19 infected around 280,000 Connecticut residents and claimed more than 7,600 lives.
“It’s really important today, especially if we want to defeat the spread of the virus, to give people the opportunity and the ability to take time off to quarantine or to isolate or care for themselves or loved ones with COVID,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said.
Marcia LaFemina, president and CEO of small manufacturer, PennGlobe, said she had previously supported the program but felt the issue more personally after a string of family losses last year.
“I had to take an extended leave to help my father pass away at home in June and then again in November, I had to do the same thing for my mother,” she said. “Everyone deserves that opportunity to be where they need to be and not worry about their jobs.”