universal paid leave

Washington, D.C.’s Universal Paid Leave program provides parental, family, and medical leave benefits for employees working in the District including household workers like nannies, housekeepers, and senior caregivers. Here’s what families need to know to comply with the new regulation.

Note for GTM clients with EasyPay w/Electronic Tax Filing: As part of your comprehensive tax service, we will remit your paid family leave contribution on your behalf by the due date each quarter.

Washington D.C. employers who are required to pay unemployment insurance taxes, which includes just about all families that have hired household help, are required to contribute to the Universal Paid Leave Act. Even families with just one employee need to comply with the law.

The Universal Paid Leave Act provides employees in the district with:

  • Parental leave to bond with a new child
  • Family leave to care for an ill family member with a serious health condition
  • Personal medical leave to care for one’s own serious health condition

Here’s what household employers need to know about Washington, D.C.’s Universal Paid Leave Act.

Employer contributions

Paid leave benefits are funded by an employer payroll tax of 0.62 percent of their eligible employees’ gross or total wages. These quarterly contributions are based on the immediate past quarter of wages paid, similar to how you pay unemployment insurance taxes.

Employers are required to make a report of and pay their quarterly contributions no later than the last day of the month following the close of each calendar quarter.

Contributions begin with the quarter that starts on April 1, 2019. That means your first report and payment for the quarter, which ends on June 30, will be due by July 31.

There will be a separate wage report form for paid family leave that will be provided by the Office of Paid Family Leave.

Again, for GTM clients with our comprehensive tax service, we will manage your compliance with the Universal Paid Leave Act and handle your contributions.

Employee contributions

The Universal Paid Leave Act requires employer-only payments. Do not withhold contributions from your employee’s pay.

Penalties for non-compliance

If you are even one day late in making a payment, you’ll be assessed a penalty of 10 percent of the amount due. Also, if you fail to make your contributions by the due date, then an interest rate of 1.5 percent per month will be assessed until the payment is made.

Eligible employees

Employees who spend more than half of their work time for an employer working in the District of Columbia during some or all of the 52 weeks immediately preceding a qualifying leave event is eligible for paid leave benefits.

An employee must also be working for a covered employer when they apply for paid-leave benefits and have had their wages reported.

Paid leave can be taken beginning on July 1, 2020.

Types and length of leave

Note: Employees are not entitled to receive payment for more than one qualifying event in any 52-work week period.

Parental leave

Employees can take up to eight weeks of paid parental leave, which may be taken within one year following the birth of a child, placement of a child for adoption or foster care, or placement of a child where the employee legally assumes and discharges parental responsibility.

Family leave

Employees are entitled to six weeks of paid family leave to provide care or companionship to a family member who has a diagnosis or occurrence of a serious health condition.

Medical leave

Employees can take two weeks of paid medical leave after a diagnosis or occurrence of a serious health condition.

Definition of a family member

Family members under the Universal Paid Leave Act include:

  • A biological, adopted, or foster son or daughter; a stepson or stepdaughter; a legal ward; a son or daughter of a domestic partner; or a person for whom an eligible individual stands in loco parentis
  • A biological, foster or adoptive parent; a parent-in-law; a stepparent; a legal guardian; or another person who stood in loco parentis to an eligible individual when the eligible individual was a child
  • A person to whom an eligible individual is related by domestic partnership or marriage
  • A grandparent of an eligible individual
  • A sibling of an eligible individual

How an employee qualifies for paid leave

In order to take family or medical paid leave under the Universal Paid Leave Act, an employee must show that a “serious health condition” exists, which includes a physical or mental illness, injury or impairment that requires inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential health care facility, or continuing treatment or supervision at home by a health care provider or other competent individual.

Paid leave benefits

Following the occurrence of a qualifying parental leave event, your employee has up to 52 weeks to file a claim for paid-leave benefits. For a qualifying family or medical leave event, your employee has up to 90 days to file a claim for paid-leave benefits.

Paid-leave benefits are calculated based on your employee’s average weekly wage, which is the total wages in covered employment earned during the highest four out of five quarters immediately preceding a qualifying event, divided by 52.

The current maximum weekly benefit amount is $1,000.

Notification requirements for employer

Starting July 1, 2019, you must post a paid-leave-program notice in a conspicuous place where notices are customarily posted.

Paid Leave Notice to Employers and Employees — English (PDF)

Paid Leave Notice to Employers and Employees — Spanish (PDF)

You must also provide notice to employees:

  • Within 30 days of hiring
  • Annually
  • At the time you receive notice from your employee that leave for a qualifying event is needed

Notification requirements for employees

Employees are required to provide you with written notice of the need to use paid leave. This notice must include:

  • Reason for the absence, within the parameters of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)
  • Expected duration of the leave

If the leave is foreseeable, then notice must be provided at least 10 days, or as early as possible, before the start of the leave. If the leave is not foreseeable, an oral or written notification must be provided prior to the start of the work shift for which leave is being used.

In case of an emergency, your employee, or another individual on their behalf, must notify you either orally or in writing within 48 hours of the emergency.

Record keeping and retention

You will be required to develop and maintain certain records for three years.

These records include:

  • Name and social security number (or tax identification number) of your employees
  • Start and end dates of each pay period
  • Wages paid for each pay period
  • Payment method
  • Employees earnings
  • Dates when wages were paid.
  • Dates of parental, medical and family leave taken by your employees
  • Copies of employee notices of leave that were provided to you
  • Copies of all required written notices given to your employees
  • Documents describing employee benefits, including short- and long-term disability policies, sick days, vacation time, and other employer paid and unpaid leave policies and practices.
  • Records of disputes between you and your employees regarding the act.

Exemptions

The Universal Paid Leave Act doesn’t provide exemptions for employers even if you already provide paid leave benefits to your employees. You can decide if your paid leave benefits run concurrently with your employees’ use of the District’s paid leave program. Also, you can’t diminish your employee’s right to paid leave benefits because you already have a paid leave policy.

Employer resources

District of Columbia Paid Family Leave

For inquiries regarding the Paid Family Leave program, contact the Office of Paid Family Leave at does.opfl@dc.gov.

Employer FAQ (PDF)

Paid Family Leave Sample Benefit Amounts (PDF)

GTM can help

Clients of GTM Payroll Services can call (800) 929-9213 or email our client service team with questions about complying with Washington, D.C.’s Universal Paid Leave. GTM can calculate your contributions and submit them on a quarterly basis according to the law. One less thing for you to worry about!

Not a GTM client? Take advantage of our free, no-obligation consultation with one of our household employment experts. Just call (800) 929-9213 and get answers on all things nanny tax, payroll, and compliance including Washington, D.C.’s Universal Paid Leave.

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