Beginning January 1, 2018 nearly all private employers in New York must prepare for what some say is the most comprehensive paid family leave program in the nation. The New York Paid Family Leave Program (NYPFL) will provide New Yorkers job-protected, paid leave to bond with a new child, care for a loved one with a serious health condition, or help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service.

What the NYPFL Does

The new law has three primary roles. First, it provides that parents may take time off to bond with their child during the first twelve months following the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child (including children born, adopted, or fostered within twelve months of when the law takes effect). Second, it provides for paid time off if an employee’s family member (spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent or grandchild) has a serious health condition. Under the new law, such conditions are defined as an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves either inpatient care or continuing treatment or supervision by a health care provider. Absent any complications, taking care of a family member with the common cold, flu, ear aches, upset stomach, minor ulcers, headaches other than migraines, routine dental or orthodontic problems do not meet the definition of a serious health condition.

Third, paid family leave is available when a spouse, child, domestic partner or parent of the employee is on active military duty abroad or has been notified of an impending call of active duty abroad. In this situation, the employee may request leave to help out with obligations arising out of the call to duty, such as making child care arrangements, attending certain ceremonies, or making financial or legal arrangements to address the military member’s absence. Of note, paid family leave may not be used for an employee’s own serious health condition or qualifying military event.

In each of the above scenarios, an eligible employee must receive 50% of their average weekly wage (AWW) up to and not to exceed 50% of the New York State Average Weekly Wage (SAWW) ($1305.92 per week, so 50% of this is a $652.96 benefit) for up to 8 weeks. The benefit amounts will be paid by the state through a fund that is financed through payroll deductions. The benefit schedule gradually increases year to year as follows:

2018: 8 weeks, 50% of employee’s AWW, up to 50% of SAWW

2019: 10 weeks, 55% of employee’s AWW, up to 55% of SAWW

2020: 10 weeks, 60% of employee’s AWW, up to 60% of SAWW

2021: 12 weeks, 67% of employee’s AWW, up to 67% of SAWW

In addition, an eligible employee must be provided with continuation of health insurance while on PFL and job protection.

Who the NYPFL Covers

Eligible employees are employees who at the time they apply for PFL have a regular work schedule of 20 or more hours per week who have been working for 26 weeks, and employees with a regular work schedule of less than 20 hours per week who have been working for at least 175 days. This includes non-US citizens and undocumented workers as well, though it does not expand to independent contractors or freelance workers. Additionally, while spouses may concurrently take PFL, if both spouses work for the same employer, the employer may deny PFL to one of the spouses.

Coverage of this law is extremely broad for employers. Any New York private employer who employs at least one individual for thirty consecutive days falls within the purview of the law, and must prepare accordingly.

More information to come.