New York State to enact Paid Family Leave in 2018
Starting in 2018, all employers with employees working in New York state will be required to provide Paid Family Leave coverage to those workers. This new law, enacted by governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016, runs concurrently to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid yet protected time off for major health and family leave events such as bonding with a newborn, caring for a sick family member, or obligations related to active military duty deployment.
Paid Family Leave (PFL) takes FMLA further, providing partial pay to employees during their time off. Note that PFL, unlike FMLA, does not provide coverage to employees for personal health issues—depending on the situation, that is covered separately through disability.
Starting in 2018, employees on PFL will receive 50% of their average weekly wage (capped at the New York State Average Weekly Wage of $1,305.92 in 2017; this calculation is variable by year) for eight weeks. The benefits will increase percentage-wise until it reaches 67% in 2021, as per the benefit schedule below:
Important requirements for employers
Employee contribution. Employers are advised to contact their insurance agents to set up PFL coverage for their employees, as the coverage will typically be added to an employer’s existing disability insurance policy. Employers may deduct the premium cost directly from employees (capped at 0.126% of the annualized NYS Average Weekly Wage) or cover the cost themselves.
Employee eligibility. Eligibility for this coverage only applies to employees whose primary place of work is based in New York state. Employees with a regular work schedule of 20+ hours per week are eligible after 26 weeks of employment. Employees working less than 20 hours per week are eligible after 175 days worked.
Additional requirements. In addition to benefits, all employees are entitled to be reinstated to their same or comparable job upon return from PFL. They must also continue employee health insurance during PFL, although they may require employees to continue paying their premium contributions during this time. Failure to adhere to these responsibilities may open the employer up to discrimination and/or retaliation claims.
Other compliance regulations. Employers must ensure that employees are aware of the Paid Family Leave program and must also display a poster regarding PFL coverage in their place of business (similar to Workers’ Compensation or Disability Benefits coverage).