New York Employers: Get Ready for Mandatory Paid Family Leave

July 14, 2017

Labor and Employment

Action Item: The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board recently published updated regulations to the New York Paid Family Leave Law. Effective January 1, 2018, employers that provide Disability Benefits Law coverage to New York-based employees will also be required to provide Paid Family Leave coverage.

The New York State Paid Family Leave Program (“PFL”) will provide employees working in New York job-protected, paid leave to (i) bond with a new child (birth, adoption, or placement in foster care), (ii) care for a family member (child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, spouse, or domestic partner) with a serious health condition, or (iii) relieve family pressures when an immediate family member (spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent) is called to active military service. Unlike the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), an employee’s own serious health condition is not covered by the PFL. However, if the employer employs more than 50 employees (the minimum required for FMLA coverage), an eligible pregnant employee could take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for her own health condition resulting from the pregnancy (covered by the FMLA) and then could take a paid leave (covered by the PFL) after she has the child.

The PFL will be phased in over the next four years, with the duration and amount of the paid leave benefit increasing each year:

  • 2018: eligible employees will be entitled to eight weeks of leave paid at the lesser of 50% of the employee’s average weekly wage or 50% of New York State’s average weekly wage (currently $1,305.92);
  • 2019: eligible employees will be entitled to 10 weeks of leave paid at the lesser of 55% of the employee’s average weekly wage or 55% of New York State’s average weekly wage;
  • 2020: eligible employees will be entitled to 10 weeks of leave paid at the lesser of 60% of the employee’s average weekly wage or 60% of New York State’s average weekly wage;
  • 2021: eligible employees will be entitled to 12 weeks of leave paid at the lesser of 67% of the employee’s average weekly wage or 67% of New York State’s average weekly wage.

What Employers Need to Know Right Now:

  1. Does the new law apply to my company? A private sector employer must comply with the PFL if it offers Disability Benefits Law coverage to employees based in New York, even if the employer is not headquartered in New York State. The PFL does not apply to public sector employers unless the particular employer has elected to opt-in to provide benefits under PFL.
  2. Are all employees eligible for this leave? Employees who work more than 20 hours per week become eligible to receive PFL benefits after they have been employed for 26 consecutive weeks. Employees who work less than 20 hours per week become eligible to receive PFL benefits after they have been employed for 175 days.
  3. Who pays for PFL benefits? The PFL is intended to be funded by employees. Employees are required to contribute, via payroll deductions, to either the premium cost associated with their employer’s PFL insurance or to their employer’s cost for self-insuring PFL. If an employer choses to self-insure PFL benefits, the employer must elect to do so no later than September 30, 2017. All employees are required to contribute to the cost of PFL, even if they have not been employed long enough to be eligible for PFL benefits.
  4. When should I begin collecting deductions? Employees must contribute to the cost of PFL benefits as of January 1, 2018. The new proposed regulations permit, but do not require, employers to start payroll deductions as early as July 1, 2017. The rate of contribution for PFL will be 0.126 percent of an employee’s weekly wage, up to a maximum of $1.63 per week.

In anticipation of the January 1, 2018, effective date, employers should revise family leave policies to provide information regarding the PFL, including employees’ right to leave and contribution details.

If you have any questions about the New York PFL regulations or would like further information on how the new regulations may impact your company, please contact Anna Svensson or another member of Blank Rome’s Labor and Employment practice group.

© 2017 Blank Rome LLP. All rights reserved. Please contact Blank Rome for permission to reprint. Notice: The purpose of this update is to identify select developments that may be of interest to readers. The information contained herein is abridged and summarized from various sources, the accuracy and completeness of which cannot be assured. This update should not be construed as legal advice or opinion, and is not a substitute for the advice of counsel.