Articles

October 26, 2017

Update to Paid Family Leave in the Empire State

Understanding New York’s New Paid Family Leave Act

By Lisa Calick, SPHR

As a follow-up to a highlight in a recent article, Policies in Flux: Keeping Up With Government Policy Changes, the New York Paid Family Leave Act will take effect on January 1, 2018.  This law applies to all private-sector employers, regardless of size, and provides job-protected paid time off to employees who meet qualifying criteria.

Coverage will be provided by private carriers who cover New York State Disability Benefits.  Employers that currently receive disability coverage must obtain family leave coverage through the same carrier.  With this law, employees are guaranteed wage replacement during the term of their leave, job protection upon return from paid family leave, and continued health insurance while out on leave.

Eligibility

Eligible employees are those who have regularly worked 20 or more hours for 26 weeks, or for those who regularly work less than 20 hours, eligibility occurs after 175 days.  Only those employees whose work schedule will not meet the minimum coverage eligibility threshold may be allowed to waive their right to PFL benefits (and thus payroll deduction obligations).

Funding

Benefit amounts are funded through employee payroll deductions, unless an employer chooses to cover the entire cost themselves.  For 2018, the deduction amount is set at 0.126% of the employee’s average weekly wage, with a maximum weekly deduction per employee of $1.65. 

Reasons for Leave

This new law allows employees to take paid leave to care for a seriously ill family member, to bond with a new child, or to handle a qualifying military exigency.  It is important to note that unlike FMLA and/or disability, this new law does not allow employees to use this leave to care for their own serious illness.

Benefit Amount and Leave Duration 

Employees may take up to 8 weeks of leave, at 50% of their average weekly wage, subject to a state wage cap (estimated current max benefit of $653).  PFL benefits will increase each year until fully implemented in 2021.

  • 2018 – 50% of pay for a maximum of 8 weeks
  • 2019 – 55% of pay for a maximum of 10 weeks
  • 2020 – 60% of pay for a maximum of 10 weeks
  • 2021 – 67% of pay for a maximum of 12 weeks

Employees cannot take more than 26 weeks of total paid family and disability leave in a 52-week period.  Additionally, there will likely be coordination that is needed among this law, FMLA, disability and/or any company provided leave benefit.

Action Steps

With the upcoming January 1 effective date, employers should take steps to ensure they are complying with the new law.  Suggested action steps are below:

  1. Reach out to your temporary disability carrier, if you have not done so.
  2. Communicate with your payroll provider regarding timing to begin taking deductions.
  3. Communicate to your employees about the new law, including its purpose and the payroll deductions that will be made.
  4. Review and revise any paid leave policies as appropriate to include the new law and ensure that it does not conflict with existing leave policies.

If you have comments or questions, reach out to Lisa Calick, Wiss' Director of HR Advisory Services at lcalick@wiss.com or 973.994.9400.