Paid Family Leave Begins In New York; Employers Must Begin Payroll Deductions

Summary

In 2016, New York State enacted a law providing for Paid Family Leave for eligible employees under qualifying circumstances. The program, which begins January 1, 2018 provides eligible employees with wage replacement to help them bond with a child, care for a close relative with a serious health condition, or help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service.  In addition, employees who take leave are also guaranteed to be able to return to their job and continue their health insurance, though he/she must continue to pay his/her portion of the premium cost while on leave.  Collection of the payroll deductions by which the program is funded began on July 1, 2017.

How Paid Family Leave Funded?

Paid Family Leave coverage will be included under the disability policy all employers are required to carry, however the premium will be fully funded by employees through payroll deductions.  These deductions, which began on July 1, 2017 are equal to .126% of the gross weekly wage, capped at the statewide wage of $1,305.92.  A new maximum rate of employees’ contribution will be set by New York State each year.

Notably, the deduction is mandatory for Full-Time and Part-Time Employees.  Seasonal and Temporary employees are not eligible and can opt out if they will not meet the eligibility requirements (discussed below) in a year.

Who Is Eligible For Paid Family Leave?

Nearly every full-time or part-time private employee in New York State is eligible for Paid Family Leave, and participation in the program is not optional such employees.  Full-time employees are eligible for the program after 26 weeks of being hired, while part-time employees are eligible for the program after 175 days of being hired.  Seasonal or temporary workers may opt out of the program unless their assignment will be for at least 26 continuous weeks or 175 days.

Furthermore, unlike the federal Family Medical Leave Act, employers are prohibited from requiring that employees take all of their sick leave and/or vacation before using Paid Family Leave.  Employees who wish to receive full pay while on Paid Family Leave may be still utilize their available sick or vacation leave, but this is not required to take leave.

Under What Circumstances May Leave Be Taken?

As described more fully below, leave may be taken to help a parent bond with a child, to care for a close relative with a serious health condition, or help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service.  However, Paid Family Leave may not be used for an employee’s own disability or qualifying military event.

Maternity and Paternity Leave

Employees who are expecting, fostering or adopting a child, may be entitled to take time to care for and bond with their child. With proper documentation, eligible employees may be eligible for up to eight (8) weeks of Paid Family Leave (rising to  12 weeks by 2021). Paid Family Leave only begins after birth and is not available for prenatal conditions. An eligible employee may take Paid Family Leave during the first 12 months following the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child.

Caring for a Close Relative with a Serious Health Condition

Employees who need to care for a close relative suffering from a serious health condition may be eligible for Paid Family Leave commencing in 2018.  A close relative includes one’s spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, parent in-law, grandparent, or grandchild.

With respect to qualifying medical conditions, a serious health condition is any illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either in-patient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility; or continuing treatment or continuing supervision by a health care provider.

Active Duty Deployment

Paid Family Leave is available for employees eligible for time off under the military provisions in the federal Family Medical Leave Act when a spouse, child, domestic partner or parent of the employee is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order of active duty.

How Much Leave Is Available And At What Rate?

The Paid Family Leave will phase in over a four-year period commencing on January 1, 2018, as shown below:

Year

Weeks Available

Max % of Employee Average Weekly Wage

Cap % of State Average Weekly Wage

1/1/2018

8

50%

50%

1/1/2019

10

55%

55%

1/1/2020

10

60%

60%

1/1/2021

12

67%

67%

For example, in 2018, an employee making $1000 a week would receive a benefit of $500 a week (50% of $1000), while an employee making $2,000 a week would receive $648 a week, or half of New York State's Average Weekly Wage (NYSAWW).  The NYSAWW, currently $1,296, will be set every year after a comprehensive analysis by the New York State Department of Labor.  Employees may take the maximum benefit length, as shown above, in any given 52-week period. The 52-week clock starts on the first day the employee takes Paid Family Leave.

What Should Employers Do Now?

After familiarizing themselves with the new law, employers should also take steps to notify employees of the law and its benefits, as well as the new payroll deduction.  Employers should also update their employee handbooks to ensure they conform with the new law, and coordinate with the payroll department so that the required deductions are being withheld.


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