Understanding the Types of Workplace Leave

Decoding and Defining Each One

At some point in nearly every employee’s career, there may be a need to take an extended Leave of Absence from work.
Now, more than ever before, the social distancing, isolation and quarantines required as our nation responds to COVID-19, underscore the importance of the many Leave types available to U.S. workers. The Leaves range from traditional time off offered by employers, to the recent emergency Leaves that have been enacted by special federal and state laws to provide immediate economic relief and job protection to workers affected by COVID-19.
Leaves may be paid or unpaid, and some may be guaranteed by law. Specific types can also include protections so employees know their job will be waiting for them when they return. To help you see what’s available and what each one can be used for, we’ve put together a list of the most common types of Leave, including the new emergency COVID-19 Leaves. In addition, we have included a description of the wage replacement benefits that employers may provide in addition to state mandated Workers Compensation insurance for employees that are unable to work due to a Disability.

Emergency COVID-19 Related Leaves

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) – The federal law created two new types of temporary Paid Leave, one included temporary changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 which had provided 12 weeks of unpaid Leave for illness or family-related reasons, and the other by enacting a temporary Paid Sick Leave. These temporary COVID-19 Leaves, which expired at the end of 2020, were available to businesses with 500 or fewer employees and to some government employers. The FFCRA tax credits and certain other tax credits were extended through September 30, 2021, to covered employers who voluntarily offer these types of leaves, along with new leave reasons beginning on April 1, 2021. The voluntary FFCRA-related Leaves and other COVID-19-related leaves include:
Employers choosing to provide this benefit would give employees with up to 10 days of Paid Sick Leave if they can’t work and need to care for themselves or others due to a quarantine or symptoms, or to care for a child whose school or daycare is closed due to COVID-19 related precautions. After April 1, 2021, employees can also take this leave to get a COVID-19 vaccine or recover from vaccine-related illness.
Employees could get up to 12 weeks of FMLA, with the last 10 weeks of it paid after Emergency PSL is used, if they couldn’t work because they needed to care for a minor child whose school or daycare had closed due to COVID-19 related precautions.  After April 1, 2021, other Leave reasons were added for voluntarily provided company COVID-19 vaccine-related issues if the employee or someone in their care is subject to quarantine or isolation orders, or the employee has COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a diagnosis. 
Here’s how it would work:
  • 12 weeks of leave would be available for all EFMLA reasons, including the expanded reasons under the law that took effect April 1, 2021. For periods when the first two weeks of EFMLA are not payable, employees can get paid using the Emergency PSL.
Most employers in New York must now provide Paid Sick Leave (PSL) of one to two weeks, depending on employer size and income, to employees unable to work due to COVID-19 quarantine orders. Employees needing to be out longer than the new Paid Sick Leave durations may then be eligible to receive emergency NY Disability or Paid Family Leave.
Several states are updating existing rules or passing new legislation to protect private and public employees. See what Leave laws were passed in response to COVID-19.

Traditional Workplace Leaves

This traditional, non-COVID-19 version of this federal law allows many employees nationwide who work for a company with 50 or more employees, up to 12 weeks off to bond with a new child, care for themselves or a family member with a serious health condition. FMLA is not a Paid Leave, but it does provide job protection.
This entitles members of the military with civilian jobs to take a Leave of Absence for active military service. Required by federal law (Uniformed Services Employment Rights Act of 1994 – USERRA), this Leave protects the employee’s benefits and seniority level while they are away serving their country, including when they are called to serve during a national emergency.
This income replacement program allows employees to take Leave to be able to bond with a new child, care for themselves or a sick family member, or respond to a qualifying event. Depending on the state, PFML Leave can range from 6 to 26 weeks.
PFML has two main purposes:
  1. Paid Family Leave (PFL) – Provides income replacement and extended time off to bond with a new child, care for a sick family member or respond to a qualifying event.
  2. Paid Medical Leave (PML) – Provides income replacement and time off for an employee recovering from a non-job-related injury or illness.
PFML is required by law in some states and may be accessed through employer benefits or a state-run public program. Visit The Hartford’s PFML Resource Center for state specific details.
This employer-sponsored income replacement Leave gives parents extended time off to bond with a new child (biological, adopted or foster). This is a gender-neutral policy to allow time for both moms and dads to bond, offered by some employers and is required by law in certain states and municipalities.
This benefit may be provided by employers or required by law to allow employees time off for non-work-related illnesses or injuries.
Many employers provide this benefit to be used for vacations, sick days and personal reasons.
This Leave allows employees to take time off to address their individual needs or those of family members who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking or stalking. Depending on state law, this Leave may or may not be paid.

Paid Disability Benefits

As described above, some states have enacted PFML programs that includes wage replacement for an employee’s non-job-related injury or illness.
This partial income replacement benefit is for employees who require time off for illnesses or injuries, which is usually required to be non-work related. This can include time needed to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. STD benefits can be paid by the employer or by an insurance company. Depending on the state, STD or “statutory disability” may be required by law.
This is a type of insurance policy that partially replaces income if an employee is out of work for a longer period of time (usually more than 26 weeks) due to a disabling condition. Employees may be able to get this through their employer or by buying an individual policy directly from an insurance company.
In most states Workers’ Compensation benefits provide payment for medical bills and wage replacement for work-related illnesses or injuries.

In Summary

Regardless of what you do or where you work, many employees have access to a variety of Leave benefits that can be offered through employers. Understanding the types of Leave and benefits available will help you know the options you have if the unexpected happens. To find out what you’re eligible for, ask your employer or Human Resources department for specific details.
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This informational material is subject to change as The Hartford continues to receive guidance from states and municipalities. It shall not be considered legal advice. The Hartford assumes no responsibility for legal compliance with respect to an employer’s business practices, and the views and recommendations contained herein shall not constitute The Hartford’s undertaking on a company’s behalf, or for the benefit of others, to determine or warrant that an employer’s business operations are in compliance with any law, rule, or regulation. Employers seeking resolution of specific legal or business issues, questions, or concerns regarding this topic should consult their own attorney or business advisors; and employees should continue to consult their employers’ Human Resources or other employment benefits department for guidance on the application of any law, rule, or regulation.
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