The District of Columbia recently enacted the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2021, which amends and expands DC’s Universal Paid Leave Act (UPLA). The amended law is in effect from October 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022. Below are the key changes to the UPLA that employers need to know.

  1. Expansion of Medical Leave
    Previously, employees could only take up to two weeks of medical leave for their own serious health condition. However, under the amended UPLA, employees can now take up to six weeks of medical leave for their own serious health condition.
  2. Miscarriage and Stillbirth as a Qualified Medical Event
    The UPLA amended its definition of “qualifying medical leave event” to specifically include miscarriages and stillbirths as serious health conditions entitled to medical leave.
  3. Addition of Prenatal Leave
    Under the amended UPLA, eligible employees may now take up to two weeks of paid prenatal leave. Prenatal leave can be used by a pregnant employee for “routine and specialty appointments, exams, and treatments associated with a pregnancy provided by a health care provider, including, but not limited to, pre-natal check-ups, ultrasounds, treatment for pregnancy complications, bedrest that is required or prescribed by a health care provider, and pre-natal physical therapy.”

    Notably, employees are eligible for the full two weeks of paid prenatal leave in addition to the full eight weeks of parental leave under the UPLA. However, employees cannot take more than six weeks of prenatal and medical leave combined. 
  4. Retroactive Application of Benefits
    Instead of only being able to prospectively apply for paid leave benefits under the UPLA, employees can now retroactively apply for benefits for leave already taken. To do so, employees must submit a claim for benefits within 30 days of the qualifying event. However, the 30 day period can be extended if the employee was unable to apply within that time frame due to exigent circumstances. Under the amended UPLA, “exigent circumstances” is defined as:
    – A physical or mental incapacity that prevents an employee or their authorized representative from filing for benefits;
    – A demonstrable inability by the employee or their authorized representation to reasonably access the means to file a claim or benefits; or
    – A lack of knowledge by an employee of their right to apply for benefits due to the employer’s noncompliance with the notice requirements that is confirmed by the DC Department of Employment Services.
  5. Removal of 10-Day Waiting Period
    The amended UPLA removes the ten-day waiting period for employees to receive benefits after filing their first claim for benefits under the Act.

Nicole Behrman is an employment attorney who represents clients in a wide range of matters in the District of Columbia. For more information, contact her at [email protected] or 301-657-0744.