Q: What Is the New York Paid Family Leave Law?

As of January 1, 2018, almost all private employers in New York State are required to offer paid family leave to employees.

The New York Paid Family Leave law offers paid time off with job protection for three events:

  1. Bonding with a new child
  2. Caring for an ill family member
  3. Supporting military family members deployed abroad

This paid family leave benefit is set to gradually increase until 2021. In 2019, employees may take up to 10 weeks off work for these events. It will go up to 12 weeks in 2021.

Gusto makes payroll, benefits, and HR actually easy.

How much do I have to pay my employees when they’re on family leave?

While on paid family leave, your employee earns a percentage of their average weekly wage—up to the same percentage of the state average weekly wage.

New York Paid Family Leave Benefits 2019 to 2021

Year Weeks of LeaveBenefit
201910 weeks55% of employee’s average weekly wage, up to 55% of SAWW*
202010 weeks60% of employee’s average weekly wage, up to 60% of SAWW*
202112 weeks67% of employee’s average weekly wage, up to 67% of SAWW*

*State Average Weekly Wage     

New York updates its State Average Weekly Wage every year. In 2019, it’s $1,357.11. That means the maximum weekly benefit for Paid Family Leave in 2019 is $746.41.

We know, these incremental increases of benefits year over year can be a little confusing. There are two main things to keep in mind:  

  • If an employee starts their leave before the end of one year and continues into the next, they’ll get the benefits and deductions in effect on the first day of leave.
  • The maximum leave per year is based on a “rolling calendar,” not on the annual calendar. That means maximum leave amounts reset every 52 weeks.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say your employee goes on leave Nov. 15, 2019, and returns to work Jan. 24, 2020 (that’s ten weeks). Two months later, they want to take paid family leave for another eligible reason.

Because the Paid Family Leave program is based on a “rolling calendar,” they’ll need to wait until 52 weeks after the first day of their last leave to be eligible again.

Ouch! Will this money come out of my profits?

No need to worry. New York Paid Family Leave is actually an insurance program funded by employees.

You withhold employee contributions via payroll deductions, up to a maximum annual amount. Then those withholdings are used to pay for the insurance.

For 2019, you deduct 0.153% of an employee’s gross wages each time you run payroll, up to an annual maximum of $107.97. The state updates these numbers annually.

If you wish, you may cover the cost of paid family leave insurance on behalf of your employees.

Gotcha. What are my to-dos as an employer?

Since New York Paid Family Leave is an insurance program, the first thing you need to do is set up your policy.

Check with your insurance company. Paid family leave insurance policies are usually added as a rider to an existing disability benefits policy. (Here’s a list of insurance companies that offer paid family leave insurance in New York.)

Then use the employee contributions you collect to pay for the insurance policy.

Here’s an employer checklist of other to-dos:

1. Inform your employees

Update your employee handbook to include information about Paid Family Leave and how it works.

If you don’t have a handbook, provide written guidance about the benefits. Model language for informing employees can be found here.

2. Make it clear who’s eligible

Both full-time and part-time employees can be eligible.

  • Full-time employees: An employee who works 20 or more hours a week is eligible after being employed for 26 consecutive weeks.
  • Part-time employees: An employee who works less than 20 hours a week is eligible if they’ve worked for you for at least 175 days. These days do not need to be consecutive.

3. Offer waiver forms to ineligible employees

You must offer a waiver to employees who aren’t eligible for the Paid Family Leave program. Those who waive coverage won’t have contributions deducted from their paycheck and won’t be eligible for paid family leave.

The waiver is automatically revoked if your employee’s work hours exceed the eligibility limits or if the employee decides to participate and contribute to the program.  

If none of your employees are eligible for New York Paid Family Leave, your business is exempt from these requirements.

4. Update your payroll process to collect employee contributions

You can find a deduction calculator here.

5. Post an employee notice

Your insurance carrier will provide you with a notice to employees (“Notice of Compliance”) stating that your company now has paid family leave insurance. Post it in plain view.

New York Paid Family Leave

When can my employees take paid family leave?

Okay, quick review. There are 3 situations when your employee can use Paid Family Leave.

Let’s go over the details about each:

1. Bonding with a new child

That includes the birth or adoption of a child and the placement of a child in an employee’s home for foster care.

Your employee can take paid family leave to bond with their new child at any time in the first 12 months after the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

2. Caring for family members who are very ill or have a serious health condition

Family members include:

  • Spouses of any gender
  • Domestic partners of any gender
  • Children/stepchildren
  • Parents/stepparents
  • Parents-in-law
  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren

And what’s a “serious health condition”?

That would be an injury, illness, disability, or impairment that involves in-patient care in a healthcare facility or continuing treatment or supervision by a health care provider. This applies to both physical and mental conditions.

Preparation for and recovery from surgery related to organ or tissue donation are also acceptable reasons.

3. Supporting a family member deployed abroad on active military service

Here, “family member” means spouse, domestic partner, child/stepchild, or parent/stepparent, and parent-in-law.

Eligible reasons include:

  • Military deployment on short-notice
  • Rest, recuperation, or counseling for the service member
  • Military events related to active duty, such as official ceremonies or informational briefings
  • Post-deployment activities associated with active duty (arrival ceremonies, reintegration events, and such)
  • Work on financial or legal arrangements
  • Work on child care arrangements for the service member’s child

So, how does an employee formally request paid family leave?

An employee must notify you at least 30 days before the leave will start if it’s foreseeable, or as soon as possible if it’s not. They must submit the Request for Paid Family Leave (Form PFL-1) and any other forms mandated by the state to you.

You’ll have to fill out the employer’s section of Form PFL-1 and return it to the employee within three business days. Keep a copy for your records.

Your employee must then submit their forms to your insurance company within 30 days after their leave begins. The insurer must pay or deny the request either by the time the employee’s leave starts or within 18 days of receiving the request, whichever is later.

How does Paid Family Leave work with other types of leave?

When an employee is eligible for New York’s paid family leave, they may also qualify for other types of legally required leave.

There is often overlap with unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. As an employer, you must notify your employee that their leave qualifies for both FMLA and New York Paid Family Leave. You can then require that they take both at the same time.

New York Paid Family Leave may also overlap with your company’s own family leave policy if you already have one in place.

It’s up to you to decide how to integrate that with the state’s paid family leave benefit. Just make sure your policy is backed by an insurance policy and offers at least what the law requires.

You also have the option to be more generous. If you choose to do this and pay your employees more than the required amount while they’re on paid family leave, you may ask your insurance company for reimbursement for the amount payable under your paid family leave policy.

For more information, including Paid Family Leave forms and other employer resources, visit the Paid Family Leave website or call 844-337-6303.

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