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DC Paid Family Leave Program

By: Brian Nichols

Effective July 1, 2020, employees who work in the District of Columbia more than 50% of the time and whose wages are subject to DC unemployment tax are eligible for paid family leave. 

On July 1, 2019, the DC Department of Employment Services (DOES) started collecting a 0.62% tax from employers on their DC wages subject to unemployment tax. This tax funds the Paid Family Leave program. In addition to paying the tax DC employers are required to provide notice of the program to their employees by:

  • Displaying a poster in a location where the employees are sure to see it,

  • Sending notice annually through paper or electronically to eligible employees,

  • At the time of hire either in writing or through electronic communication, and

  • At the time the employee provides direct notice to the employer that the employee may require be required to take paid family leave

Employers are required to use a single online portal where they can access information related to paid family leave as well as access the Employer Self-Service Portal (ESSP) used for unemployment insurance. In addition to reporting and paying unemployment tax, the portal is to be used to verify an employee’s eligibility for paid family leave. Employers must keep records to prove that they have complied with the notification requirements listed above.

Since this benefit is administered by the DC government, the benefit is paid out by the DOES. Also, it is independent of the employer’s paid leave benefits. It is the employer’s responsibility to determine if the employee is eligible for the employer’s paid leave benefit.

Eligible employees apply for paid family leave through the DC Department of Employment Services. There are three types of benefits:

  • Eight weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child, including adopted and foster children

  • Six weeks family leave to care for a sick family member

  • Two weeks of personal medical leave

Employees are eligible for paid leave if their employer pays DC unemployment tax on their wages. Employees apply through the DOES website. The paid leave benefit will be paid by the DC government and the benefit will be determined by the employee’s reported wages. Employees may apply for multiple leaves, but the paid benefit cannot exceed eight weeks over any 52-week period. 

Self-employed persons who work at least 50% of the time in DC can voluntarily opt into the program in November and December of each year as well as within 60 days of the commencement of their self-employment. If they do decide to opt in they must remain in the program for three years. Self-employed individuals who opt in pay a 0.62% tax on all their gross self-employment income. When applying for the program, they must provide proof of self-employment. Unless granted a waiver, they must use the online portal to apply and pay the tax.

The paid family leave benefit is an additional benefit and does not relieve an employer of its obligation to comply with other employment laws such as DC’s Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires DC employers with 20 or more employees to allow up to 16 weeks of unpaid family leave plus 16 weeks of unpaid medical leave in any 24-month period. If you have questions concerning your obligations under the DC FMLA law or other DC employment laws, you should consult an attorney who is familiar with DC labor law.

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Published July 10, 2020

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