May 2017 - New York State Paid Family Leave

What Is It?

In 2016, Governor Cuomo signed into law the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive Paid Family Leave policy. Working families will no longer have to choose between caring for their loved ones and risking their economic security.

Starting January 1, 2018, the New York State Paid Family Leave Program will provide New Yorkers job-protected, paid leave to bond with a new child, care for a loved one with a serious health condition, or to help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service.

Who is Eligible?

  • Employees in the state of New York starting January 2018 if they meet certain criteria:
  • They work at a private organization with at least one employee (not counting the owner).
  • Full-time employees can take leave after 26 consecutive weeks of employment.
  • Part-time employees are eligible to take leave after 175 days of consecutive employment.
  • Anyone with a qualifying leave event (birth, adoption, foster care, care of family member during a military leave or qualifying medical issue) beginning in 2018, as well as births and adoptions within the last 12 months — even those in 2017.
  • If you are a public employee, your employer may opt into the program. Public employees who are represented by a union may be covered if Paid Family Leave is collectively bargained.

Who Is Not Eligible?

  • Any time an employee is receiving total disability benefits under a claim for workers’ compensation, volunteer firefighters or volunteer ambulance workers’ benefits.  However, if an employee is receiving partial disability payments, the amount of family leave benefits combined with the benefits under those laws may not exceed the employee’s average weekly wage.
  • An employee not employed or who is on administrative leave from his or her employment.
  • An employee currently receiving sick pay or paid time off from the employer; and
  • For any day in which the claimant works at least part of the day during the same working hours as those for which family leave benefits are claimed.

What is the Timeline? 

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When fully phased-in, NY will have the longest and most comprehensive paid family leave program in the nation. 

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Benefits will be phased-in starting in 2018 and capped at 67% of the statewide average weekly wage when fully implemented in 2021.

For example, in 2018, an employee who makes $1,000 a week would receive a benefit of $500 a week (50% of $1,000). Another employee who makes $2,000 a week would receive a benefit of approximately $648, because this employee is capped at one-half of New York State's Average Weekly Wage (NYSAWW) —currently $1,296. Half of that amount is the $648 benefit.

The Average Weekly Wage (AWW) is set every year after a comprehensive analysis by the New York State Department of Labor. 

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Payroll deductions (amount TBD) may begin on or about July 1, 2017. Paid Family Leave is not optional for most employees. The exception is if you are in a job that will not allow you to attain the 26 continuous weeks or 175 days needed to qualify for Paid Family Leave (for example a seasonal worker).

What Should Employees Do Now?

While PFL should not impose a direct cost on employers, PFL benefits will be administered in a similar manner as the way short-term disability benefits are administered. Initially, all employers must be aware that the proposed regulations require employers to display or post a notice in plain view where all employees and applicants can readily see it with information about PFL, including on how to file a complaint. If many of the employer’s employees do not read and write in English, the notice also must be in a language in which the employees can read and write. Further, employers must follow all federal and state laws for notices provided to sensory-impaired individuals. Employers also must commence the deductions for the fund in mid-2017 and ensure appropriate processes are implemented to do so.

In addition, employers should review their current short-term disability claims procedures to assess adjustments that may be needed or desirable to administer employee claims for PFL benefits. Employers also should begin to review the leave provisions and practices of their current policies and procedures. The new Paid Family Leave Benefits Law will not come into effect until January 1, 2018; however, employers may be well-served by preparing for this new law now.

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