As of January 1, 2018, just about all private employers in New York are now required to offer paid family leave to their eligible employees. This is a major step forward for employee rights in the state. As such, it is important for all New York workers to understand how paid family leave works and how they can take advantage of the new law.
What Employers Must Offer Paid Family Leave?
Just about every New York business that employs one or more people must provide paid family leave. This means that paid family leave covers significantly more people than prior types of guaranteed unpaid leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act, for instance, only guarantees unpaid leave rights for workers at companies that employ 50 or more people.
How is Paid Family Leave Actually Paid for?
New York's paid family leave program effectively functions as an extension of disability insurance, which private employers are already required to maintain. If your employer “self-insures” for disability purposes, they may need to purchase a separate paid family leave policy to cover their obligations under the new law.
Your employer assesses a payroll deduction of 0.126% to pay for leave insurance. So, for example, if you currently earn $600 per week, your employer may deduct 0.126% of that amount–roughly 75 cents–to pay for your paid family leave insurance. Please note, however, the payroll deduction is capped at $85.56 per week, so if your employer is taking more than that amount for any reason, you should speak with an attorney right away.
When am I Eligible to Ask for Paid Family Leave?
Although the new law covers most employers, that does not mean that all employees within a given company are immediately eligible for paid family leave benefits. If you are a full-time employee, you must work a “regular schedule” of at least 20 hours per week for 26 consecutive weeks before receiving any benefits. For part-time employees–that is, you normally work fewer than 20 hours per week–you are eligible after working a total of 175 days, whether or not those are consecutive.
What Conditions Justify Taking Paid Family Leave?
There are three general scenarios that paid family leave is designed to cover:
- You have a new child–whether by birth, adoption, or foster care placement–and need time to bond.
- You have a spouse, child, or immediate family member with a “serious health condition” and you need time to help provide for their care.
- Your spouse, child, or parent is on, or about to be on, active-duty military deployment and you need time to help care for your family.
How Much Paid Family Leave can I Receive?
For eligible employees who take paid family leave in 2018, your benefit will be equal to 50% of your average weekly wage for up to eight weeks of leave (which you do not have to take all at once). So, if you have earned an average of $600 per week for the past two months, your maximum paid family leave benefit will be $300 per week for eight weeks, or $2,400. This benefit amount is expected to increase in future years, up to 67% of an employee's average weekly wage for 12 weeks starting in 2021.
Do You Have Additional Questions or Require Legal Assistance?
Paid family leave is now a right under New York law. Your employer cannot withhold or deny leave based on citizenship or immigration status. Nor can your employer threaten to demote or replace you for taking leave. If you have any questions or concerns related to your rights under the new paid family leave law and need assistance from a qualified New York employment attorney, contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar at 646.760.6493 today.