Amendment To Worker’s Compensation Law Raises Minimum Wage and Provides Paid Family Leave: Part 2, Paid Family Leave

On April 4, 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an amendment to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Law that will significantly benefit workers in two ways: (1) raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and (2) provide workers with paid family leave, effective January 1, 2018. This is the second post on the amendment, and will discuss paid family leave.

Paid Family Leave
The other significant change is that effective January 1, 2018, employees who have worked for at least 26 weeks for a covered employer will become eligible for up to eight weeks of paid family leave at 50% of their salary. This requirement will continue to phase in over the next three years, ultimately reaching twelve weeks of paid leave at 67% pay in 2021.

For purposes of coverage, a covered employer is any employer covered by the Disability Law, i.e. all employers that have one or more employees at least 30 days in any calendar year. The State, public authorities, municipalities, and other government agencies may also elect to be a covered employer solely for the purpose of family leave benefits, provided employees are given at least 90-days’ notice.  Finally, unions may opt in on behalf of their members.

The law provides three situations where an employee may take paid family leave: (1) to physically or psychologically care for a family member suffering from a serious health condition, (2) to bond with a child during the first twelve months after birth or, in the case of adoption or foster care, placement with the employee, and (3) due to a “qualified exigency” under the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) due to a spouse, child, or parent on active duty in the United States armed forces.

Fortunately for employers, paid family leave will be paid through employee contributions, with the maximum contribution set by the Superintendent of Financial Services (estimated at $4 to $5 a month). Employers may also obtain family leave coverage through their disability coverage provider, which is mandated by New York State Disability Law to offer both family leave and disability benefit coverage.

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