Effective October 1, 2021 the Universal Paid Leave Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (“Amendment”) amends the D.C. Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016, and other provisions related to paid leave under the Paid Family Leave (“DC PFL”) program, to expand benefits for covered individuals. The amendment takes effect on October 1, 2021, and lasts for no more than 90 days. Since these Amendments were passed through emergency legislation, they will expire after 90 days (i.e., November 21, 2021), unless renewed.  However, the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Support Act contains amendments that are nearly identical and, if enacted, would make permanent many of the amendments discussed below.

Who is Covered by DC PFL?

Covered Employer

Any employer paying DC unemployment insurance (UI) taxes for one or more employees is covered by the Program. Employees whose wages are not reported to D.C. for UI are not covered. The leave program is administered by the Office of Paid Family Leave and is funded entirely by employer contributions that are submitted quarterly.

  • Eligible Employees
    • Full-time and part-time employees of a covered employer are eligible if they spend at least 50% of their work time in Washington, D.C. The Department of Employment Services previously released guidance for employers as it relates to the payment of contributions under the program stating that employees are covered if their work performed outside of D.C. consists of merely isolated transactions or is temporary, transitory, or incidental. Therefore, if employees are temporarily working remotely outside of D.C. due to COVID-19, they continue to be covered by the Program.

 Please refer to our prior article for more information about employer contributions and recordkeeping requirements.

New Qualifying Reason for Prenatal Care

As of October 1, 2021, eligible individuals may now also take up to 2 weeks of prenatal leave, for the following newly added qualifying reasons:

  • routine and specialty appointments;
  • exams and treatments associated with a pregnancy provided by a health care provider, including prenatal check-ups and ultrasounds;
  • treatment for pregnancy complications;
  • bedrest that is required or prescribed by a health care provider; and
  • prenatal physical therapy.

The qualifying reasons above are separate from and in addition to parental leave that is already available under the DC PFL program.

Updated Definition of “Qualifying Medical Leave Event” to include Miscarriage

The Amendment also updates the definition of a “qualifying medical leave event” for which personal medical leave may be taken to include medical care related to miscarriage (loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks’ gestation), and stillbirth (loss of a pregnancy after 20 weeks’ gestation).

Expanded Duration for Leave that Begins on or After September 26, 2021 through September 30, 2022

The Amendment increases the maximum duration of qualifying paid medical leave to 6 weeks (up from 2 weeks), for claims with approved leave dates that begin on or after September 26, 2021 through September 30, 2022. Parental leave remains at 8 weeks and family care leave remains at 6 weeks.

Type of LeaveDurationPrior
Family6 weeksSame
Parental8 weeksSame
Medical6 weeks2 weeks
Prenatal (new)2 weeksn/a

Individuals who have already filed a medical leave claim and have been approved for the previous maximum of 2 weeks of paid medical leave benefits may be eligible for up to an additional 4 weeks of medical leave, for a total of 6 weeks. These individuals must file a new medical leave claim with requested leave dates that begin on or after September 26, 2021 and provide documentation showing a medical reason for taking the additional leave.

The combined maximum number of workweeks of paid leave within a 52-workweek period remains 8 weeks, except when an individual takes both parental leave (up to 8 weeks) and prenatal leave (up to 2 weeks), in which case the individual can take up to 10 weeks of combined leave.

Temporary Extended Calculation Period of DC PFL Contribution Wages

The Amendment expands the wages that are subject to a DC PFL calculation for claims filed after October 1, 2021 but before the 1 year after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency that began on March 11, 2020.  Since we do not know the end of the public health emergency at this time, the end of this special provision in unknown. The calculation of an individual’s average weekly wage subject to contributions for PFL benefits will be based on the four quarters with the highest wages from the preceding 10 quarters instead of the usual 5 quarters.

Suspension of Mandatory Waiting Period

The Amendment also includes a temporary suspension of the one-week waiting period before individuals are eligible for DC PFL benefits for a qualifying event for claims filed after October 1, 2021 but before the 365th day (1 year) after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. This means that this special suspension of the waiting period will continue to apply to DC PFL claims up to 1 year after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Updated Paid Family Leave Poster Forthcoming

The Department of Employment Services will provide an updated Paid Family Leave poster, which will be made available to all District employers on the Department’s website by the late fall of 2021. Every covered employer must post the updated Paid Family Leave notice poster in the premises at which any covered employee is employed by February 1, 2022.

Employer Considerations

  • Be prepared to post the updated DC PFL poster by February 1, 2021;
  • Review policies and modify them as needed to incorporate the new and revised DC PFL provisions;
  • Ensure managers and human resources personnel are up to date on these changes and expanded benefits.

Additional Resources

Lizet Ramirez — Lizet is a Client Compliance Manager for Sequoia One, where she works with our clients to optimize and streamline benefits compliance. In her free time, Lizet enjoys live music, travel, hiking and spa days.