Starting January 1, 2018, most private employers in the state of New York will be required to have Paid Family Leave coverage for employees. This coverage will be funded through payroll contributions from the employee, and it will permit eligible employees to take paid time away from their jobs in specific circumstances to care for children or certain close family members. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) differs in some respects from Paid Family Leave in that FMLA does not provide any paid benefit, but does provide an unpaid leave of absence to covered employees for their own serious health condition, as well as for all the family leave categories covered by the Paid Family Leave Law. A fact sheet from New York State provides clear information about Paid Family Leave coverage and how it will impact employers and employees alike. We have addressed some key concerns you may have about Paid Family Leave coverage below.
What Situations Does Paid Family Leave Cover in New York?
Paid Family Leave coverage is not available for all situations involving families. However, employees may be eligible for the following:
● Leave to bond with a child (newborn, adopted child, or fostered child);
● Leave to care for a family member who has a serious health condition; or
● Leave to help when a family member is on active military duty and has been deployed.
With the Paid Family Leave program, eligible employees in New York State are entitled to wage replacement up to a certain percentage of their wages, which is capped at a specific amount while on Paid Family Leave. This is described in greater detail below.
Additionally, the program provides that eligible employees will be able to return to their same or a job similar to the one they had prior to taking Paid Family Leave. It also ensures that eligible employees' health insurance will continue during Paid Family Leave. However, employers may require employees to continue to pay their health insurance contributions while on Paid Family Leave.
How Soon Can New York Employees Use Paid Family Leave Coverage?
The Paid Family Leave program will be phased in over a four-year period that begins on January 1, 2018. Employees will not be able to take as much leave time in the first year of the program as they will once the program has been fully phased in. Initially, employees will be eligible for up to eight weeks of paid leave of up to 50% of their average weekly wage (AWW), which is capped at 50% of the New York State Average Weekly Wage (SAWW). SAWW is currently $1,305.92. Eligibility will increase over four years as follows:
● 2018: employees will be eligible for 8 weeks of leave time and up to 50 percent of the employee's AWW, which is capped at 50% pf SAWW;
● 2019: employees will be eligible for 10 weeks of leave time and up to 55 percent of the employee's AWW, which is capped at 55% of SAWW;
● 2020: employees will be eligible for 10 weeks of leave time and up to 60 percent of the employee's AWW, which is capped at 60% of SAWW; and
● 2021: employees will be eligible for 12 weeks of leave time and up to 67 percent of the employee's AWW, which is capped at 67% of SAWW.
For example, an eligible employee on Paid Family Leave in 2018, whose AWW is $1,500, would be eligible to receive up to $652.96 (50% of the current SAWW which is $1,305.92) weekly for up to 8 weeks.
When Can an Employer Begin Taking Deductions for Coverage?
What responsibilities does an employer in New York State have regarding the Paid Family Leave program, and when can or must an employer begin taking deductions?
Employers in New York State are required to carry Paid Family Leave coverage, which will be included under the employer's required disability policy. Employers can choose to fund Paid Family Leave coverage through employee deductions. For 2018, the maximum employee contribution is 0.126 percent of the employee's weekly wage. Employers can begin taking deductions as of July 1, 2017.
The Paid Family Leave program will provide important benefits to employees in New York State, and differs in some respects from those provided by the FMLA. It is important for both employers and employees to know about their rights and responsibilities under the program. If you have questions, you should discuss them with a New York employment law attorney.