New York to Begin Paid Family Leave Program

On April 4, 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new law which will allow eligible employees to receive paid family leave benefits. New York is the fourth state to enact legislation requiring paid family leave, following California, New Jersey and Rhode Island. The paid family leave benefits will gradually be implemented, eventually statue-of-liberty-962268_1280reaching a maximum of 12 weeks of leave by January 1, 2021.

The new paid leave will be funded by New York’s disability benefits fund through mandatory employee payroll deductions of approximately $1.00 per week. Employers will not be obligated to pay employees for time off under the new paid family leave program.

Employees will be eligible for paid family leave benefits after six consecutive months of employment with the same employer. All employees working at least 6 months at a single employer are eligible, regardless of the company size or the number of hour
s the employee has worked for that employer.

The paid family leave can be used for any of the following:

  1. Caring for an infant.
  2. Caring for a family member with a serious health condition (but not a serious health condition of the employee themselves). Family members covered are children, parents, grandchildren, grandparents, spouses and domestic partners.
  3. For any “qualifying exigency” (as defined by the FMLA) due to a family member being called to active military duty.

The length of leave benefit, as well as the amount of weekly benefit received, will increase each year beginning January 1, 2018 based on the following schedule:

  • January 1, 2018: Employees are eligible for a maximum of 8 weeks of paid family leave with benefits paid at a rate of 50% of the employee’s average weekly wage (not to exceed 50% of the statewide average weekly wage).
  • January 1, 2019: Employees are eligible for a maximum of 10 weeks of paid family leave with benefits paid at a rate of 55% of the employee’s average weekly wage (not to exceed 55% of the statewide average weekly wage).
  • January 1, 2020: Employees are eligible for a maximum of 10 weeks of paid family leave with benefits paid at a rate of 60% of the employee’s average weekly wage (not to exceed 60% of the statewide average weekly wage).
  • January 1, 2021: Employees are eligible for a maximum of 12 weeks of paid family leave with benefits paid at a rate of 67% of the employee’s average weekly wage (not to exceed 67% of the statewide average weekly wage).

The New York paid leave program has many similarities to the federal FMLA (Federal Medical Leave Act) rules:

  • Employees are required to provide their employer with advance notice of the need for family leave 30 days prior to the leave when possible or as early as possible in their specific situation.
  • An employer cannot cancel employee health insurance benefits and must treat the employee, for benefit purposes, the same as if they were actively working.
  • An employee returning from family leave must be reinstated to the same position they were in prior to taking the leave. If the same position is not available, they must be placed in a comparable position with similar pay, benefits, and other terms of employment.
  • Employers cannot retaliate against an employee for requesting or taking family leave.

The law permits employers to establish rules preventing multiple employees from receiving paid leave benefits for the care of the same family member at the same time as another employee.

Employers cannot require an employee to use accrued, unused vacation or PTO (paid time off) time, however they can give the employee the option to use the accrued time. If the employee does decide to use vacation or PTO time while on leave, the employer can require that the employee reimburse the employer for any paid family le
ave benefits received during the same time period.

Employers can require that employee use FMLA leave and New York paid family leave concurrently if the employee is eligible for both.

New York paid family leave can be taken intermittently, but must be used in full day increments. If an employee takes one day of leave they will be paid for 1/5 of their normal weekly benefit amount.

New York employers should review their leave of absence policies to make sure they will be in compliance with the new rules as they become effective.

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