What Empire State employers need to know
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law last month the most generous paid family leave policy in the United States, providing up to 12 weeks paid time off for new parents, family caregivers and those related to military servicemembers.
Specifically, employees will be eligible for paid leave:
- To bond with a child during the first 12 months after birth or after the child has been placed with the employee for adoption or foster care.
- To provide care for a family member suffering a serious health condition.
- Because of any qualifying exigency arising from the employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent being on military active duty or being notified to begin active duty.
New York’s law applies to all employees, regardless of company size, unlike the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which only applies to organizations with 50 or more workers. New York’s leave is also paid, whereas the FMLA offers only unpaid job protection.
And New York employees will be eligible for paid leave after only six months of employment, whereas the FMLA is available only when employees have been on the job with a company for more than one year.
The new policy will be phased in gradually, beginning Jan. 1, 2018:
- On or after Jan. 1, 2018, eligible employees will be entitled to eight weeks of family leave at 50 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage and capped at 50 percent of the state average weekly wage.
- On or after Jan. 1, 2019, eligible employees will be entitled to 10 weeks of family leave at 55 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage and capped at 55 percent of the state average weekly wage.
- On or after Jan. 1, 2020, eligible employees will be entitled to 10 weeks of family leave at 60 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage and capped at 60 percent of the state average weekly wage.
- On or after January 1 of each succeeding year, eligible employees will be entitled to 12 weeks of family leave at 67 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage and capped at 67 percent of the state average weekly wage.
Notably, the program is not funded by employers, but instead funded wholly by employees through payroll deductions. Under the new law, employee payroll deductions of about one dollar per week per employee are scheduled to commence Jan. 1, 2018.
Paid Family Leave: Employer Considerations
Although the program does not take effect until 2018, all New York employers should begin familiarizing themselves with the law’s requirements (especially those with fewer than 50 employees who have no experience dealing with obligations to provide leave), reviewing current policies and practices and preparing to update payroll systems to account for employee contributions.
A few things to be aware of:
- Employers are required to maintain existing health benefits of eligible employees for the duration of the paid family leave.
- Employers cannot terminate, fail to reinstate or otherwise retaliate against an employee for taking or attempting to claim paid family leave benefits.
- Employers are generally required to reinstate employees to actual or comparable positions with comparable benefits, pay and other terms of employment upon the worker’s return from paid family leave.
- Eligible employees are not permitted to collect paid family leave benefits simultaneously with temporary disability benefits, workers’ compensation disability payments, or sick pay or paid time off from employers.
- Employers are permitted to require eligible employees to take the state’s paid family leave concurrently with any unpaid leave the employee may be entitled to under the FMLA.
New York employers of all sizes are encouraged to consult with knowledgeable sources such as CJC HR Services to ensure that all policies, practices and employee handbooks are in compliance with the law.