Be Ready For New York State’s Paid Family Leave Law, Effective January 1, 2018

Employers with employees in New York must prepare for New York State’s Paid Family Leave Benefits Law (“PFL”), which will provide job-protected, insurance-based, paid family leave to employees.  PFL goes into effect shortly, on January 1, 2018.

Overview of PFL Benefits

Under PFL, eligible employees will be entitled to:

  • Paid time off for one of three qualifying reasons – Eligible employees will be entitled to a certain amount of time off, during which they will receive a certain percentage of their wages.  However, weekly wages payable under the PFL are capped at one-half of New York State’s Average Weekly Wage, which is currently $1,305.92 (half of which is $652.96).  The program will be fully implemented over a 4-year phase-in schedule:
    • Starting on January 1, 2018, eligible employees will be entitled to take 8 weeks of leave while receiving 50% of their average weekly wages.
    • Starting January 1, 2019, eligible employees will be entitled to take 10 weeks of leave while receiving 55% of their average weekly wages.
    • Starting on January 1, 2020, employees will still only be entitled to take 10 weeks of leave, but will be afforded 60% of their average weekly wages.
    • Finally, starting on January 1, 2021, employees will be entitled to take 12 weeks of leave while receiving 67% of their average weekly wages.
  • Reinstatement – Upon returning to work, eligible employees must be restored to the position they held before taking leave, or to a comparable position with comparable benefits and pay.

Covered Employers

  • Private employers with one or more covered employee will be required to provide PFL benefits.
  • Public employers may opt in.
  • Covered employers whose employees are represented by a union and whose collective bargaining agreement provides paid family leave need only provide PFL benefits if the collective bargaining agreement’s benefits are not as favorable as those under PFL.

Eligible Employees

  • Full-time employees (those with a regular schedule of 20 or more hours per week) become eligible for PFL benefits after working for 26 weeks.
  • Part-time employees (those with a regular schedule of less than 20 hours per week) become eligible for PFL benefits after working for 175 days.

Qualifying Reasons to take Family Leave under PFL

Eligible employees may receive PFL benefits in the following three instances:

  1. To bond with a new child (including newly adopted and foster children);
  2. To care for a close relative with a serious health condition;
    • Close relatives include spouses, domestic partners, children, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, and grandchildren
    • A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves a) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility; or b) continuing treatment or continuing supervision by a health care provider.
  3. To relieve family pressures created when a spouse, child, domestic partner or parent is on or has been called to active military duty, and the employee is eligible for time off under the military provisions of the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

Notably, an employee cannot receive PFL benefits to care for his or her own serious health condition or for his or her own qualifying military event.

Interplay with other Leave Benefits

  • Covered employers may permit employees to use sick or vacation leave for full pay, but may not require that employees use such leave.
  • Employees’ PFL leave must run concurrently with qualifying FMLA leave.  This means that employees cannot stack PFL and FMLA leave to take time that exceeds the leave entitlement under the PFL.  Employees cannot receive New York State disability benefits simultaneous with their receipt of PFL benefits.

Tips and Next  Steps for New York City Employers

  • Update the leave provisions of your company’s policies and/or handbooks – it’s required by the PFL!
  • Obtain paid family leave insurance coverage
  • Train your human resources personnel

For questions on compliance with this new law or other employment and hiring requirements, please contact Dina M. Mastellone, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Human Resources Training & Audit Programs Practice Group, at dmastellone@nullgenovaburns.com, or 973-533-0777.

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