New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law new paid family leave legislation (“NYPFLL”) on April 4, 2016, which will be effective January 1, 2018. It is the most comprehensive family leave law in the United States and, once implemented, guarantees all New York employees, both full-time and part-time, 12 weeks of paid leave when (1) caring for a child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth or the first 12 months after the placement of the child for adoption or foster care with the employee; (2) caring for a family member with a serious health condition; or (3) to handle family responsibilities when a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent is called to active military service. The only eligibility requirement is that the employee must work for his or her employer for six consecutive months in order to receive paid leave benefits. 

Most significantly, the NYFPLL will not be funded by employers. Instead, the paid family leave will be funded by the employees themselves with a deduction from their weekly paychecks, which Governor Cuomo estimated will be about $1 per employee. 

Prior to the passage of the NYFPLL, employers were required to follow the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). The FMLA, however, applies only to employers with 50 or more employees and provides only eligible employees with 12 weeks of unpaid family leave. The new law generally provides for paid leave and applies to employers of all sizes. However, unlike the FMLA, the NYFPLL does not apply to an employee’s own serious health condition or disability due to childbirth, which continues to be covered by the disability portion of New York’s Workers’ Compensation Law, which does not contain a mandatory 12-week period of job protection. 

The table below illustrates the key differences between the FMLA and the NYPFLL.

Click here to view table.

Like the minimum wage plan, the NYPFLL will be implemented gradually as follows:

Click here to view table.

Notice/Penalties: Employers will be required to conspicuously post notice indicating they have complied with the paid family leave requirements and must also provide employees who take paid family leave for more than seven consecutive days a written notice of their rights under the law. Penalties for noncompliance include monetary fines ranging from $100 to $2,000 and/or potential imprisonment. 

What This Means for New York Employers

Although employers will not directly bear the costs of this new family leave law, they may want to prepare for other ancillary costs associated with its implementation, including costs for implementing changes to internal policies and, for small businesses especially, costs related to finding coverage during periods of employee absences. Employers should also consider implementing proper procedures for administering the paid family leave benefits, including appropriate weekly deductions from their employees’ paychecks, once the statute is effective.