CHAMPS Comments on Paid Family Leave Benefits
[CHAMPS submitted the below comments to the Paid Family Leave
Benefits Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on September 5, 2019.]
I am writing on behalf of CHAMPS, Capitol Hill’s Chamber of Commerce, on the proposed rulemaking for paid-leave benefits. Thank you for the opportunity to provide comment on these proposed regulations.
Our comments focus on clarifying the requirements and obligations of employers and the responsibilities of employees, with the goal of reducing confusion or opportunities for miscommunication between employers and employees on paid family leave (PFL).
- Section 3501.3 – This section states “No claim submitted before the date of the occurrence of a qualifying leave event shall be approved by the Department of Employment Services (DOES).”
However, in section 3509, an employee “shall provide the written notice at least to business days in advance of the leave.” If an employee knows they will need leave on a certain day – pregnancy, a planned surgery, expected dates of care for a family member – can they apply for leave in advance? Can you clarify how the above examples would be allowed under section 3501.3? Does this mean no claim submitted for payment before the date of the occurrence of the qualifying event shall be approved by DOES?
- Section 3502.1 – Regarding the determination notice by DOES within 10 days, it is unclear to employers what pay (PFL, sick and safe leave, leave without pay) they are supposed to record for an employee who, for example, breaks their leg on a Sunday and cannot report to work for two weeks. If the determination is made by DOES that the broken leg is an eligible use of PFL, is the paid leave retroactive to the 7 day waiting period after the incident? What if the determination is not made until the 8th, 9th, or 10th day? Can DOES provide scenarios of how the PFL determination period plays out for parental leave, family medical leave, and personal medical leave?
- Section 3502.2(b) – Is an employer obligated to respond to the DOES claims examiner? Is there a penalty for the employer for not responding? It is possible that the employee may not notify the employer about the use of PFL, in which case the employer would not be able to answer (3), which type of PFL is the employee requesting.
- Section 3502.7 – How will DOES notify covered employers whether the claim for paid-leave benefits has been approved or denied?
- Section 3504 – There is a 7-day waiting period for benefits, identical to unemployment insurance. What happens if the employee is out for an illness or accident that is eligible for paid-leave, but does not last 7 days? Can the employee use Sick and Safe leave? What if the employee then has intermittent leave a few weeks later based on the initial sickness or injury? Is there an obligation on the part of the employer to again remind the employee about PFL? Can you provide scenarios for how this 7-day waiting period intersects with the DOES determination period? The waiting period could result in some employees with short PFL needs not bothering to request leave initially, and then seeking PFL weeks later based on that initial but unreported injury. In this scenario, what is the obligation of the employer to remind the employee about PFL?
- Section 3507.5 – It may take up to 20 days after a qualifying PFL occurrence for an employee to receive a payment from DOES. Please make clear in rollout communications to the employee community that payments come from DOES, not from the employer.
As we move forward, CHAMPS would like to recommend and work with OPFL on the types of information that would be helpful for businesses well in advance of the benefits implementation. Some of those items include:
- One-page plain language descriptions of the PFL benefit that employers can include in employee handbooks;
- Model language that can be used in employee handbooks and in onboarding information that helps employers accurately fulfill the requirement to inform their employees about their PFL rights;
- Plain language examples of situations that are qualified uses of paid family leave to provide clarity to both employers and employees;
- A list of employer responsibilities and a list of employee responsibilities to clarify the actions of each party before and when an employee seeks to use PFL;
- And plain language explanations of how PFL intersects with Safe and Sick Leave and the Family Medical Leave Act.
Thank you for considering these comments. CHAMPS welcomes the opportunity to provide feedback and input on the information that will be distributed to the employer and employee communities. We look forward to continued engagement with OPFL as implementation of this legislation moves forward.
CHAMPS, Capitol Hill’s Chamber of Commerce