Lincoln Absence Advisor

In the know about DC, MA, and CT

July 09, 2020 Lincoln Financial Group Season 1 Episode 18
Lincoln Absence Advisor
In the know about DC, MA, and CT
Chapters
00:00:50
Why are we chatting today?
00:02:25
District of Columbia
00:11:51
Massachusetts
00:19:18
Connecticut
00:24:04
Other states?
00:26:19
Resources
Lincoln Absence Advisor
In the know about DC, MA, and CT
Jul 09, 2020 Season 1 Episode 18
Lincoln Financial Group

The leave landscape is ever-changing. This year alone we’ve seen programs launch, programs we’re preparing for, and programs we are keeping an eye on. In this episode of Lincoln Absence Advisor, we’re joined by Trish Zuniga, Compliance Lead for leave regulation, Marissa Mayfield, Product Lead for Lincoln’s Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave program, and Kristen Hostetter, Product lead for Lincoln’s Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave program to share insights on the latest programs from Washington DC, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, such as:

  • What these programs have in common
  • What makes them unique
  • What you should know about them right now


LCN-3149428-070220
© 2020 Lincoln National Corporation. All rights reserved.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The leave landscape is ever-changing. This year alone we’ve seen programs launch, programs we’re preparing for, and programs we are keeping an eye on. In this episode of Lincoln Absence Advisor, we’re joined by Trish Zuniga, Compliance Lead for leave regulation, Marissa Mayfield, Product Lead for Lincoln’s Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave program, and Kristen Hostetter, Product lead for Lincoln’s Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave program to share insights on the latest programs from Washington DC, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, such as:

  • What these programs have in common
  • What makes them unique
  • What you should know about them right now


LCN-3149428-070220
© 2020 Lincoln National Corporation. All rights reserved.

Karen Batson:

Hi again, everyone. This is Karen Batson marketing manager for leave and disability at Lincoln Financial Group. We are all well aware of an ever changing leave landscape. And this year we've seen programs launch, programs we're preparing for, and programs we're keeping an eye on for the future. In today's Lincoln Absence Advisor episode, I'm joined by a few of my partners to discuss the newest programs in Washington, D.C., Massachusetts and Connecticut. Trish Zuniga, compliance lead for leave regulation, shares her insights on the most recent paid family leave launch in D.C. Marissa Mayfield, product lead for Lincoln's Massachusetts PFML program discusses current status and preparation for Massachusetts. And Kristin Hostetter, product lead for Lincoln's Connecticut PFML program introduces us to this newest program and what we should be thinking about now. Welcome ladies. Thanks for joining me. There is always a lot going on, it feels like with paid leave across the United States. So for our listeners, why are we focusing in on D.C., Massachusetts, and Connecticut for today's discussion?

Kristin Hostetter:

It's a good question. I think, you know , we're looking at these programs because each of them has something that's coming up. So , uh , D.C. is effective today. Um , there's always something going on with Massachusetts and we're expecting some activity from Connecticut soon, too. So they're kind of top of mind for us at the moment,

Karen Batson:

Hot topics, as we would say. Now, what is, is there anything unique about these programs...the set of states?

Trish Zuniga:

So the interesting thing for me about the states or jurisdictions is that some of the states that have passed their PFML programs like Washington have in effect retired their existing unpaid leave programs . So, Washington used to have this leave law called the unpaid family leave act, which sunsetted the day before Washington paid family and medical leave took effect. But for these states, they're still having the unpaid leave program, run concurrently with the paid leave program. So it's going to be quite a challenge for employers to comply with the different compliance mandates of each leave program. And do employers even realize that they have different responsibilities under these leave programs, they might not. And so that's where we come in and hopefully provide a little guidance into what needs to happen,

Karen Batson:

Knowing that these states have a lot going on both what exists in the states and that they're launching soon. Maybe we go in chronological order, starting with the District of Columbia. So my first question, given this timing of the conversation, what do we know about today's launch? How did it go? Any, any details to share?

Trish Zuniga:

Yeah, so happy first day of D.C., PFL everybody, as of the date of recording today is July 1st and , uh , as can be expected, D.C. dropped a lot of information through their website on what the program is, what that means for employers, what that means for employees. And they've also dropped information on how to apply for and receive benefits. And there's a lot for employers and employees to go through and it's all on the website. All of the forums are there too. So I would just recommend that people consult that resource.

Karen Batson:

We'll add it to the description listeners.

Kristin Hostetter:

Yeah, I was going to say, I think one of the unique things about the District of Columbia is, you know , where a lot of these programs allow private plans where Lincoln may have, you know, an offering the District doesn't. So all of the plans are run through the District. So we may not hear a lot about this one just yet, but I'm sure we, you know, over the coming weeks, we'll learn a little bit more.

Karen Batson:

Maybe we should , um, maybe circle back, give a little high level definition of the D.C. program. I know we've talked about it a little bit in our compliance updates, but we haven't really talked about it a lot in our other channels. So our listeners may want to know a little bit more.

Trish Zuniga:

Sure and full props to the D.C. office of paid family leave that have put forth a lot of informational materials. And the one that really stuck with me are the numbers 8-6-2. So what that means is the duration of paid family leave that an employee may be able to receive based on the type of qualifying leave reason. So that's eight weeks to bond with a new child, six weeks to care for a family member with a serious health condition and two weeks for your own serious health condition. And that's why it's 8-6-2. However, the first number of that is what employees should remember the most. An employee can only receive a total of eight weeks of PFL benefits for a year. So when it's, for a combination of all of those reasons, you can only receive a total of eight weeks of paid family leave benefits.

Karen Batson:

So let me ask this question as, as this program went live today, what is important for employers to keep in mind now?

Trish Zuniga:

So I think just top of mind, employers should make sure that they follow the D.C. PFL website. There are resources there , um , including very comprehensive employer toolkit that tell us employers what to do and when to do it. And there's also an employee tool kit on what employees should expect when they want to go ahead and file for paid family leave. And then on the website, they give information about webinars as well. So there's one today. There's one, I think their schedule is every other week. So if , if employers are inclined to do so they can attend it and post questions to OPFL employees.

Karen Batson:

Oh, that's nice. Kristin did you want to add to that ?

Kristin Hostetter:

Yeah, I think, you know, the other thing just to keep in mind since this program is run by the District of Columbia is, you know , from an employer perspective, there will be times when D.C.'s PFL should coordinate with other programs like FMLA or short term disability or the, you know , state unpaid leave. So I think just keeping that in mind is there you're working with other vendors or handling these things on their own that there is that that need to coordinate at times.

Karen Batson:

I know when we talked , um , a little bit before the other thing to keep in mind being the notice of rights and leave packets. Right. But that's something to keep an eye on.

Kristin Hostetter:

Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, a lot of the programs including D.C. require that employers provide a notice of rights. So that is, you know , one of the things that that should be included with the leave packet when an employee needs , um, time that may qualify for paid family leave.

Karen Batson:

Now I know with other programs I've launched and we see annual updates, midyear updates , um , I believe even Washington made some updates when they launched and they launched in January and made updates later in the year with this one live, do we foresee any changes on the horizon for District of Columbia?

Trish Zuniga:

So it's a little early to tell...on day one, but what I'd be interested and am keeping my eye on. Is their processing of claims , um, in the regulations, they do say that after 10 business days of filing a claim for PFL benefits, employees should receive a notification of approval or denial, and then 10 days after, and that's 10 business days after approval, then employees will be able to receive their payment already, either through direct deposit or through debit card. And that's just a requirement that I'm interested in seeing if they'll meet it, or if this is something that'll have to be adjusted due to any , uh , program constraints or due to volume.

Marissa Mayfield:

Yeah. Karen, I would just add to that, you know, just kind of as a more kind of matter of practicality, what we've observed with other states that have launched programs, you know, in the beginning, you know, sometimes they're still working through some of the additional development needs that might be necessary to support the program longer term as well as areas where they might need to iterate on their processes or procedures and any kind of potential enhancements to their technology or their staffing models. So I agree with what Trish shared that, you know, it's certainly the potential that we might see some changes in the way that they go about managing some of these two , whether it's improving efficiency or to kind of address the volume. I think the program itself is going to be remaining very much as it is and how it was passed from a legislative standpoint. And so any material changes there would really have to be driven by, you know , some type of legislative activity or action, but I think any kind of we would see is going to be more iterative based on the process and ways to, you know , just kind of go about it in the best way,

Karen Batson:

Which is really learning from what we're doing. Right. And that's not always a bad thing if I can say that.

Marissa Mayfield:

Yup. I totally agree.

Karen Batson:

Now we started the conversation talking about what made these three states unique and I'm curious, is there anything that makes D.C.'s program unique regard in regards to other paid family leave programs?

Trish Zuniga:

So that would be what Kristin had mentioned earlier in that there are no private plans allowed for D.C. PFL administration and only the District through their agency called the department of employment services. They're going to be the ones to administer and pay PFL benefits. So the challenge with D.C. is really when employers ask about concurrency and coordination, what happens with a concurrency of leaves and the coordination of employer provided benefits, it's something that we've had to work through differently from all of these other state programs.

Marissa Mayfield:

I think Trish, what, what kind of piling on to that, D.C. seems like they've taken the most liberal approach when it comes to coordination of benefits where they're really deferring to employers. Whereas some states have been a bit more , um , kind of explicit about what their expectations are regarding coordination. D.C. has said that employers can really dictate a lot of the coordination allowances. So for some employers that want to provide a more generous scenario, they could choose not to coordinate with those programs where someone could conceivably be getting more than their wages through the combination of their PFL benefit and any kind of employer sponsored programs. And then employers have the option to also coordinate where, you know, they're ensuring that someone is not , um , receiving more benefit than they really should be. So , uh , they've, they've certainly kind of set a different precedent when it comes to coordination , um , which I think gives a lot more flexibility for employers. Um, the other thing that I've observed just in working very closely with these programs is, you know, each of them takes a different approach related to the way that they choose to fund the program and , and D.C. chose to fund it fully through employer contributions with having no requirement of employees contributing. And there's also no maximum kind of cab and what those contributions are. So, you know , I think that there are going to be in a position where, you know, depending on wages that an employee has, it could be collecting a fair amount of, of , um , contribution to cover and really support the fund moving forward and without any kind of employee contribution required. So I think from that regard, it becomes a bit more of an employer burden and something to kind of , um , be aware of because it does differ from some of the way the other programs have been structured.

Karen Batson:

Well, let's, let's shift to the next program going live Massachusetts . So many of us have been working towards that January 1st, 2021 date , um, for a while now , um, from our carrier perspective In getting ready for the launch, where are we in the process as a carrier and where should employers be in that process?

Marissa Mayfield:

Sure. So I would say that we're definitely well underway with our development as with a lot of these other state programs. The launch of a carrier's offering really does have a direct kind of correlation with the activity that's happening on the state side and really kind of setting the roadmap and some of our milestones and timelines. So from a Lincoln standpoint, our main focus right now is building out our claims and administrative processes. We're starting at this point now to begin implementing our sole business , uh , expanding our resource library, of all of the different materials that we have to support employers and their employees preparing for the program. And then one of the big things is awaiting the final regulations from the state, which will really help to determine any kind of adjustments we'll have to make to our original policy filing that we submitted last month. So a number of things are underway , um, as we wait for that. Uh, and then the other piece, which is also important is helping employers that are actively going through the exemption process, really helping to guide them through that process.

Karen Batson:

So you're busy. That's what you're saying.

Marissa Mayfield:

Yeah, absolutely, always!

Karen Batson:

Now we heard that , uh , Massachusetts is revising regulations. Can you share a few of the observations That you might have?

Marissa Mayfield:

Sure. So Massachusetts, you know, every state takes a slightly different approach to when they decide to , uh, provide regulations. Massachusetts definitely provided their's only earlier end. So they were published about a year ago and , um, through, you know, I think probably this is a little presumptive on my end, probably, but through them working through some of the more detailed aspects of their program, they decided that they wanted to revisit some of their regulations. And so they reopened that process earlier this year and did provide a draft of those regs , um, about two months ago, I believe. Um, and so with that, they were revisiting a number of the provisions that were previously outlined in the regulations. Uh , and so at this point with them having shared the draft of those changes, we're going to be awaiting the final regulations, which hopefully will come towards the end of July, but could even go into August depending on their timeline.

Karen Batson:

So kind of adding on that, do you have a good view of what the state's doing in regards, of course these regulation changes coming up, but ultimately building the program and getting ready for launch?

Marissa Mayfield:

Yeah, sure. So, you know, I'm sure that they are well underway with building out their infrastructure to prepare for the , uh , kind of the launch of the program. So things like their staffing, their technology, all the processes that they're going to need to support the program for the claims that they are going to be managing. They've also been working very closely with the , um, the carrier community in building out the exemption process for private plans , uh , and then all of the filing expectations. So they've definitely been very busy with all of the preparation , uh , and I'm sure that that will just continue to ramp up over the next few months as they , um, you know, kind of fine tune the remaining deliverables that they're going to have to be ready for January.

Karen Batson:

Now I have to ask this question, like, since we are, you know, second half of the year, what's the number one question we get asked about?

Marissa Mayfield:

Yeah. So I would say , um, you know, given kind of my proximity to this particular state program, the main thing that we're hearing, and this is really specific to our clients that have , uh , been considering the private plan offering is, you know, I've applied for my exemption, so now what? So , um , there's a number of steps that go into the actual exemption process itself. So when we think about once that that application has actually been submitted, there's a number of different touch points that the state has and providing initially an acknowledgement and then a provisional approval, and then ultimately kind of a final approval of that exemption. And that's all happening in a very short timeframe from when they initially apply. Uh, and then from there, it becomes a lot of working with, you know , the carrier in the case with Lincoln on just the next steps. So for anyone that's listening to this that, you know, is a Lincoln client, you can certainly engage your Lincoln contact to help work through that process with you. Um, you know, we're going to have a very detailed set of considerations , uh , related to our internal process and implementation to ensure that, you know , you understand exactly what's needed , uh , and kind of what it looks like in getting your Lincoln offering ready. And I would imagine that that's probably very similar , uh , with anyone else working with other carriers, trying to prepare for the program. I gather, especially given our work that we have with some of our competitors and peers that everyone's in a very similar boat in just working through a number of these things and making sure that our clients are prepared.

Karen Batson:

So last question on Massachusetts and same question that we asked on D.C., what makes the Massachusetts program different from other paid family medical leave programs that we've we've seen?

Marissa Mayfield:

So I think the Massachusetts program has , um, stood out to me the most so far with , uh , some of the bells and whistles that they have , um, introduced into the program, from my opinion, I think it's definitely the most generous and kind of liberal program so far with, you know, introducing additional leave reasons like, you know, care of a covered service member , um , which, you know, this is the first program that has introduced that as a specific leave reason for a specific duration, but they've also provided up to this point, the longest duration of benefits. Um, there's a lot of flexibility around being able to take leave intermittently. There's also some, some employer controls and whatnot that have been considered as well. So I think that the state really took a look at what was already in the market from a state program perspective, and really looked at kind of the needs of their constituency and really built out a program with all those things in mind. And I will be very interested to see how the Massachusetts program and that the way that they've approached it really kind of sets the stage for future legislation. And what do other states do in response to that? As we see more programs emerging,

Karen Batson:

Trish, would you add anything from a compliance, legal perspective of something that stands out for this program?

Trish Zuniga:

Just to add to Marissa's impression that Massachusetts can set the stage for future proposed legislation, not to pull focus from these three states, but Washington set the stage for future proposed legislation as well. And that's something that Oregon is going to be modeling its paid family and medical leave program on. So I completely agree with Marissa that Massachusetts could be likewise, the model for paid family and medical leave programs in the Northeast.

Karen Batson:

Well, that's a good segue. So has it affected Connecticut, which is our next state to talk about? Do we see any pairings in what Massachusetts is trying to put out there and what we're seeing in the new Connecticut program?

Kristin Hostetter:

You know, I would say , um, Marisa touched on the leave reasons available under Massachusetts' program, and you do see some similarities with Connecticut. Um, you know, they, they also include care for a covered service member and there are also some interesting things in there, including serving as an organ or bone marrow donor, and then, you know, allowing benefits under the domestic violence leave law as well. So I do think that there'll be some similarities between the two.

Karen Batson:

We haven't talked about Connecticut too much cause we're , I feel like we're just getting started in some ways. Um, is there a good way to kind of bucket a high level definition or other parts of the definition that you didn't just go over that we should share with our listeners?

Kristin Hostetter:

Yeah, I think, you know, we're, at a point we have, you know, some high level points about the Connecticut program that we can share so much like the other programs that we've talked about today. And one of the more recent trends that we're seeing is that in addition to the family leave component Connecticut's will include that employee's own condition, which wasn't always the case with paid family leave programs, but certainly something we've been seeing with the more recent ones. Um, we touched on, you know, how the Massachusetts, excuse me, how the D.C. program is funded and Connecticut's will be a little bit different. So Connecticut program is going to be funded through employee contributions. Those begin in January of next year. And we don't know the exact contribution yet, but we know that that rate won't be more than 0.5% of a covered individual's wages. So I think there's some information there that will be helpful to employers. A couple of other key points for Connecticut benefits begin in January of 2022. So we're still a ways out from the benefit perspective, but there's a lot that we expect to come over the next month or so, as far as regulations and like a checklist for employers that want to pursue a private plan, we actually expect the checklist at any point. And likely as soon as we finish recording this podcast , uh , this particular law it's, you know, it's , it's going to allow employees up to 12 weeks of benefits and then similar to, I think it's Washington where there's some additional time allowed for, for pregnancy. So those are just some high points of the Connecticut program.

Karen Batson:

So what should be the next step for many employers who are getting ready for this program then in January, 2022?

Kristin Hostetter:

It's a good question. I think the big question for employers at this point will be to start thinking about whether they plan to use the state program, or if they want to pursue a private plan. And I mentioned the private plan checklist that the state of Connecticut will be releasing someday soon, and that will be really helpful for those employers that wish to pursue a private plan. So we'll definitely be communicating more about that once we have the checklist, but that'll be the first decision from an employer perspective.

Karen Batson:

What about that contribution element? Should they be thinking about , um , the contribution strategy for this program as well? Like, is it , or is it too early to be thinking about what they want to do there?

Kristin Hostetter:

That's a great question. And I think, and Marissa and Trish, I'm sure you would agree, but there's , there's, it's never too early to start thinking about that and connecting with the other vendors that may have a role in the contribution strategy. So absolutely employers should be contemplating that at this point.

Karen Batson:

Now I know we're in the early stages of the program, but same question on Connecticut. Is there anything that stands out that's unique about the Connecticut program versus other programs that we've seen?

Kristin Hostetter:

You know, I think, and I don't want to say the same thing that Marissa said for Massachusetts, but it is, you know, there's, there's a good number of reasons that an employee can, can utilize this program. So I think that's one of the things that stands out at least to me.

Trish Zuniga:

And for me, it's, it's interesting how Connecticut wants to dovetail their unpaid leave program with this new paid leave mandate. And what I found interesting was that Connecticut in enacting the paid program, they actually went ahead and amended the unpaid leave program, so that most, if not all of the program elements of the two would dovetail like employee eligibility and qualifying leave reasons. So I would say that makes it easier for the employer to keep track of an employee's entitlements under both programs.

Karen Batson:

So, you know, we've talked about these three areas, these three programs, are there other states that we're keeping an eye on right now that we'll be sharing more information out on this year, maybe even a future podcast when you guys all come back?

Trish Zuniga:

This is an interesting time for the paid leave landscape because you have to be both looking forward and looking backward. So when I say looking backward, we're taking a look back once again at Washington, they've had their program for half a year now, and in third quarter of this year, they're going to come up with their rate increase. And if they're going to be charging a solvency surcharge to keep the program up and running, and that's something that they'll be looking at in the third quarter and announcing sometime in the fourth so that they can implement it for the next year.

Karen Batson:

And looking forward?

Trish Zuniga:

And looking forward, there's Oregon. And I've mentioned a little about this earlier. Um, they also have their paid family and medical leave program that's mostly patterned after Washington state. So they're going to be starting with their rulemaking in phases and they have constituted these working groups and they'll be releasing their draft rules in phases starting this year and continuing for the next year, year and a half.

Marissa Mayfield:

Trish, one thing that I would just add, you know, I think as we move into some of these , uh , future legislative sessions and we see the type of legislation that emerges, you know, I'll be very interested to see the impact that COVID in this current environment has had. You know, I think some states have definitely , um, looked at opportunities to improve upon their existing paid leave programs. And in some cases, you know how to be able to Institute requirements on a very rapid kind of pace. And so I'll be very interested to see if there's any broader impact to the paid family leave landscape, which typically is a lot more involved, you're looking at longer runways of time for development and launch. And so I'll be very interested to see if states look to try to condense some of that in an effort to get out in front of emerging needs that their workers have. So I think we'll be watching that pretty closely as we move into 2021.

Karen Batson:

I think we need to also talk about how people can stay informed. And I know the group of us have spent a lot of time on various resources and getting them out there to keep people informed of this very changing landscape. Um, what would you guys to our listeners of great resources?

Kristin Hostetter:

I think that one of the resources and you touched on it, Karen, but we , we all focus a lot on the compliance update and Trish does a lot of work with that every month to make sure that we're communicating out any changes. So the absence advisor compliance update, I think is, is one of our best resources that we have to share information outside of forums like this podcast.

Marissa Mayfield:

I was also going to add on, you know, we've done a lot of work to our public webpage , uh , related to paid family leave. So for those interested it's www.lfg.com. Um, yes, it's backslash PFML to be able to look at a lot of the more state specific information, as well as to see archives of some of our compliance resources as well.

Karen Batson:

And we'll have a webinar coming up, Kristin, you're going to be the star of the show there. Um , on Connecticut.

Kristin Hostetter:

We will, it's going to be exciting. So our third quarter webinar is going to focus primarily on Connecticut. So we'll, we'll be able to dig in a bit more than we did today. And we hope to have some more information about private plans and perhaps some regulations to dig into when we, when we do that here later this year.

Karen Batson:

And then the last plug I would say is Trish . you actually have an article coming out. Right?

Trish Zuniga:

I do. Yeah. I, I am thrilled to announce that I get to just take a more comprehensive look at the interaction of paid family and medical leave benefits and existing unpaid leave loss in DMEC's at work magazine , uh , in their July, 2020 issue where the theme is integrated absence management. So this interplay between the unpaid and paid leave programs has always fascinated me because of those different compliance mandates. And I hope this is helpful for employers to understand how to comply with all of these laws because of the multiple points of divergence between the two types of leave programs. So I hope it proves interesting to you too.

Karen Batson:

I'm excited to read it. I haven't had a chance yet. So for our listeners, you know, we plugged a lot of things that Lincoln has developed and sends out. So I do recommend you reach out to your Lincoln benefits professional if you don't receive them already and with like to. So thank you ladies. I thought this was a great conversation. We covered a lot in a short amount of time, so I really appreciate you joining me today.

Kristin Hostetter:

Thanks Karen.

Marissa Mayfield:

Thanks for having us.

Karen Batson:

To everyone listening. Thank you for joining us. We will continue to cover topics that help employers and their employees navigate through this new environment. So be sure to subscribe to Lincoln Absence Adviser on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Disclosures:

Please remember that our content is advisory only. The information contained in this podcast is for general use and is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney or your human resource professional. Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name for Lincoln National corporation and its affiliates, the Lincoln National Life Insurance company, Fort Wayne, Indiana Lincoln Life and Annuity company of New York, Syracuse, New York and Lincoln Life Assurance, company of Boston Dover, New Hampshire. The Lincoln National Life Insurance company does not solicit business in New York, nor is it licensed to do so. Affiliates are separately responsible for their own financial and contractual obligations.

Why are we chatting today?
District of Columbia
Massachusetts
Connecticut
Other states?
Resources