May. 02, 2017

New York Paid Family Leave Law Takes Effect January 1, 2018

Beginning January 1, 2018, private sector employees in New York State who meet the minimum employment-duration requirements will be eligible for paid family leave under New York’s Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) law.  The PFL program will be funded by employees via mandatory payroll deductions – tacked onto existing disability benefits deductions – beginning in July 2017.

Who is Covered by the Law?

The law applies to all private employers.  Unlike the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), there is no minimum number of employees required to be subject to the law.

Full-time employees who have been employed by their employer for 26 consecutive weeks or longer will be eligible for paid family leave. 

Part-time employees who have worked at least 175 days for their employer will also be eligible for paid family leave.

Under What Conditions Can an Employee Take Paid Family Leave?

As indicated by the name, this law applies to family-related events, and not to medical conditions or disabilities affecting the employee himself/herself.  Specifically, this law allows paid leave under the following circumstances:

1.  To provide care to a close relative with a serious health condition.

This includes care for a spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, or grandchild.  A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves: (i) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility; or (ii) continuing treatment or continuing supervision by a health care provider. 

2.  To bond with a newborn child within the first year after birth (or, in the case of adoption or foster placement, within a year after adoption or placement).

Note that this does not apply to pregnancy, but rather to post-birth bonding. 

3.  When a spouse, child, domestic partner, or parent is on active military duty or has been notified of an impending call or order of active duty.

This is consistent with the corresponding military service provision of the FMLA.

What is the Length of Paid Time Off Allowed?

The law incrementally increases the paid family leave allowance between 2018 and 2021 as follows:

  • 2018: 8 weeks.
  • 2019: 10 weeks.
  • 2020: 10 weeks.
  • 2021: 12 weeks.

These periods of leave are calculated in any given 52-week period, beginning on the date leave is first taken.  Note that PFL leave runs concurrently with FMLA leave unless the employer’s policy states otherwise.

Compensation and Benefits During Leave

Compensation to employees during paid family leave is paid from the employer’s disability policy.  The premiums are funded by employees via mandatory payroll deduction.

The compensation paid to employees during paid family leave incrementally increases between 2018 and 2021 as follows:

  • 2018: 50% of employee’s salary, capped at 50% of the state average weekly wage.
  • 2019: 55% of employee’s salary, capped at 55% of the state average weekly wage.
  • 2020: 60% of employee’s salary, capped at 60% of the state average weekly wage.
  • 2021: 67% of employee’s salary, capped at 67% of the state average weekly wage.

An employer may permit – but may not require – an employee to use paid time off or sick time during the leave in order to receive his or her full salary during this period. 

Additionally, the employer must continue to provide the employee’s existing health insurance benefits during the leave.

Employer Preparation

In advance of the January 1, 2018 effective date, employers should review and modify their leave policies as necessary and ensure that management is familiar with their new obligations.  While the above highlights key areas of the new law, it is not intended to address every aspect and employers should consult with their labor and employment counsel to ascertain compliance and address any questions specific to their leave policies.