New York Paid Family Leave Benefits Law—Coming Soon

August 8, 2017

By Joseph F. Saeli, Jr.

New York’s Paid Family Leave Benefits Law takes effect on January 1, 2018.   Most non-government employers in New York will have to comply with this law.  It is not too early to begin preparing for it.

Employees will be eligible for Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) for up to eight weeks within a fifty-two-week period.  PFL includes compensation, continued health insurance, and job protection.

PFL can be used for one of three reasons:

  1. To care for a close relative with a serious health condition.
  2. To bond with a newborn, newly adopted, or newly placed child within the first twelve months after birth, adoption or foster placement.
  3. When a spouse, child, domestic partner or parent is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call to active duty, as provided under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).

Unlike the FMLA, PFL benefits are not available for an employee’s own health condition.

PFL will apply to almost every private sector employer in New York, since it applies to employers which have at least one employee for thirty days.  (The FMLA applies to employers with fifty or more employees). Public sector employers are not automatically subject to PFL, but can voluntarily agree to provide this benefit.

PFL will be available for employees who work at least twenty hours per week for twenty six consecutive weeks, or who work fewer than twenty hours per week for one hundred seventy five days.

PFL will be financed by deductions from an employee’s weekly wage. The deduction has been set at 0.126% of the weekly wage, not to exceed $1.65 per week. Employers are permitted to begin taking these deductions on July 1, 2017, even though the law does not take effect until January 1, 2018. Most employers will provide PFL benefits through an insurance policy similar to the short-term disability benefits policy now required in New York.

The amount of the initial PFL benefit will be 50% of the employee’s average weekly wage, with a maximum benefit of $653.00 per week. The amount of the benefit will increase to 67% of the average weekly wage by 2021. The number of weeks of leave available will increase to twelve weeks by 2021. Employees will be able to take PFL on an intermittent basis in increments of at least one day.

An employee returning from PFL is entitled to reinstatement to their prior position, or to a comparable position with comparable pay, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment. An employee’s health insurance benefits must be continued while on PFL.

The PFL regulations require that if an employer has an employee handbook information concerning PFL must be included in the handbook. If the employer does not have an employee handbook, the employer is required to provide written guidance to each of its employees about PFL.

This article is meant to provide an overview of the main provisions of this new law, and does not cover all of its specific details.

Colligan Law LLP is prepared to assist your organization in complying with the PFL law, including providing the required addition to your Employee Handbook. Please contact Joseph F. Saeli, Jr. for assistance.