Until now, within the U.S., only California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington have had paid family leave statutes, none of which offers benefits longer than six weeks. New York now joins those states offering a paid family leave program for its workers, but New York’s program will be the most robust, providing 12 full weeks of job-protected leave. Both the benefit amount and length of paid family leave will be gradually phased in beginning in 2018.

Specifically, New York employees will be eligible for paid leave under the New York paid family leave law:

  • to provide care for a family member made necessary by a serious health condition;
  • to bond with their child during the first 12 months after birth or after the placement of the child with the employee for adoption or foster care; and
  • because of any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent of the employee is on active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty) in the armed forces of the U.S.On January 1, 2018, employees will be eligible to receive up to eight weeks of paid family leave per year and 50 percent of their average weekly wage (capped at 50 percent of the statewide average weekly wage). On January 1, 2019, employees will be eligible to receive up to 10 weeks of leave and 55 percent of their average weekly wage (capped at 55 percent of the statewide average weekly wage). Thereafter, the benefit increases such that by 2021, employees can get up to 12 weeks and 67 percent of their average weekly wage (capped at 67 percent of the statewide average weekly wage).
  • Unlike the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), which applies only to companies with 50 or more employees, New York’s plan applies to all employees, regardless of company size. New York’s plan also grants paid leave, unlike the FMLA, which provides for only unpaid job protection. And unlike under the FMLA, which provides protection only for individuals who have been employed by a company for more than one year, employees are eligible for paid leave in New York after only six months of employment.

The program is not funded by employers, but instead will be funded through nominal employee payroll deductions. Nonetheless, this new plan invites questions from employers who already have paid leave policies. Employers are encouraged to review their current policies and practices to get ready for New York’s new plan.