New York’s New Paid Family Leave Program: What You Need to Know

by | September 6, 2017 | Employment Discrimination

Beginning January 1, 2018, New York’s Paid Family Leave Program will provide employees in New York State with a range of new benefits. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Under the Program, employees will receive paid leave and continuation of health insurance coverage (subject to the employee contribution) for 8 weeks beginning in 2018, increasing to 12 weeks by 2021.
  • In 2018, these benefits will be capped at half the employee’s average weekly wage, up to half of the New York State Weekly Average Wage. In 2018, this works out to a cap of $652.96 per week. This amount will increase gradually to two-thirds of the New York State Weekly Average Wage in 2021.
  • Employees’ jobs are protected while they are on leave.
  • Reasons for leave include bonding leave with a child who is born, adopted, or fostered; caring for a family member who has a serious health condition (including spouses, domestic partners, children, parents, grandparents, or grandchildren); or spending time with family when a spouse or child is ordered to active duty in the military.
  • Employees are eligible for paid leave if they work 20 hours per week or more and have been with their employer for 26 weeks. Employees with a regular work schedule who work less than 20 hours per week are eligible after working 175 days. The law covers employees of virtually all employers. The Program even applies to employees who work from home in New York for out-of-state employers.
  • Benefits under the program will be covered through insurance. Employers may charge an employee contribution, up to .126% of the employee’s weekly wage, capped at .126% of the New York State Average Weekly Wage.
  • Employees should submit claims within 30 days of the first day of leave and receive a determination on their claim within 18 days of submission.

Employees who are unlawfully denied benefits can bring a claim in arbitration. They can to hire a New York employment lawyer to represent them, and attorney fees can be paid out of any award.

With these new regulations, New York has made a substantial step forward in protecting employees and their families. Back in 2015, this Blog took a look at the District of Columbia’s Universal Paid Family Leave Act of 2015. Under that law, DC workers will receive up to eight weeks of paid leave for the birth of a child or other qualifying family or medical event. The District is currently set to begin paying benefits in 2020.

These guarantees go far beyond the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is a federal law that generally provides 12 weeks of leave for qualifying life events. But FMLA leave is tightly circumscribed: The leave is unpaid; the employee must have completed 12 months and 1,250 hours of employment; and the employer must have 50 employees within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite, among other constraints. New York’s Paid Family Leave Program, by contrast, will cover many employees excluded from the FMLA and ensure that they receive paid time off.

Still, both New York and DC (not to mention the United States as a whole) lag behind many European countries. Denmark, for example, provides 52 weeks of paid parental leave. And Sweden provides 480 days of parental leave at 80% of normal pay.