[Update] What You Need to Know About New York State's Paid Family Leave Program
New York's 2016-2017 state budget included legislation that will provide eligible full-time and part-time employees with up to 12 weeks of paid family leave (PFL) once it is phased in over a four-year period. Eligible employees can use the leave for qualified reasons including:
- Bonding with his/her child within 12 months of the birth or placement (for adoption or foster care);
- Caring for a covered family member with a serious health condition; or
- Dealing with certain exigencies arising when a covered family member is called to active military service.
The new insurance program, similar in many ways to the state Disability Leave Insurance program, will take hold in phases, beginning in January 2018. Initially eligible workers will be able to take up to eight weeks of leave while receiving 50 percent of their average weekly wage or 50 percent of the New York state average weekly wage, whichever is lower. The number of weeks of leave available to eligible employees under the NYS PFL and the benefits paid will be phased in over several years. The phase-in schedule is below:
The Lesser of % of Employee Average Weekly Wage (below)
The state released final implementing regulations on July 19, confirming that employees who regularly work 20 hours or more each week will become eligible for NYS PFL after working 26 consecutive weeks for their covered employer. Employees who regularly work less than 20 hours per week will become eligible on the 175th day of employment with a covered employer. Employers are required to provide employees who are not expected to be eligible for PFL coverage with an opt-out PFL waiver. For more information about the opt-out waiver and the process for requesting PFL leave, employers are encouraged to review the sample forms and final regulations which may be accessed on the NYS Paid Family Leave website.
New York joins just four other states and the District of Columbia with paid family leave legislation: California and New Jersey, which each provide six weeks off; Rhode Island, which offers four weeks of leave time; Washington is the latest state to pass legislation that provides paid family leave benefits as of 2020; and D.C., which will provide eligible employees with up to eight weeks of paid leave once available in 2020.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), passed in 1993, entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage. The FMLA:
- Does not apply to businesses with fewer than 50 workers;
- Requires eligible employees to have completed one year of employment; and
- Covers only employees who have worked a certain number of hours in the previous year.
The reasons for leave also include an employee’s own serious health condition.
Small Cost for New York Employees, No Cost to New York Employers
New York's PFL program is intended to ensure that "working families should never have to choose between caring for their loved ones and keeping their paycheck."
Covered employers, any private employer with one or more employee working in NYS, are required to carry NYS PFL insurance coverage, a rider to their existing NYS DBL insurance, or comply with the requirements to self-insure by January 1, 2018. The NYS PFL program is designed to be funded through employee payroll deductions; however, employers may choose to cover the cost of PFL insurance premium payments, and not deduct contributions from employees. Although eligible employees will not have access to leave or benefits under the program until January 1, 2018, employers were permitted to begin employee payroll deductions as early as July 1, 2017.
The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) announced on June 1 of this year, “The amount of the per employee payroll deductions, the maximum employee contribution for coverage beginning January 1, 2018, shall be 0.126 percent of an employee's weekly wage up to and not to exceed the statewide average weekly rate." The 2018 payroll contribution is capped at an annual maximum of $85.56. The deduction percentages and caps may change annually.
It’s unclear whether additional states will pass paid family leave legislation, but employers across the nation may want to closely watch the impact of this new employee benefit on both employers and employees. Learn more about the program on the New York State Paid Family Leave website.
An earlier version of this article was published on June 27, 2017.