Paid Family Leave – Get Ready to Be Happy (Or At Least Less Depressed)

Get Ready to Be Happy (Or At Least Less Depressed).

By Jack Tuckner, Esq.

Starting January 1, 2018, the New York State Paid Family Leave Program will provide New Yorkers job-protected, paid leave (can you believe it?) to bond with a new child, care for a loved one with a serious health condition or to help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

For a country that doesn’t believe that paid leave should be a right of employment, NY’s establishment of Paid Family Leave is a thrilling and powerful step in the pursuit of equality, dignity and balance between the responsibilities of both the work and home.

New York’s Paid Family Leave program provides wage replacement in the form of partial salary to employees to help them bond with a child, care for a close relative with a serious health condition, or help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service.

Employees are also guaranteed job security after the paid leave, and employees are also guaranteed continued health insurance. If you contribute to the cost of your health insurance, you must continue to pay your portion of the premium while you’re out on on Paid Family Leave.

Paid Family Leave is designed to phase in over four years, starting January 1, 2018. Schedule:

Year Weeks Available Max % of Employee Average Weekly Wage Cap % of State Average Weekly Wage
1/1/2018 8 50% 50%
1/1/2019 10 55% 55%
1/1/2020 10 60% 60%
1/1/2021 12 67% 67%

Employees may take the maximum benefit length in any given 52-week period. The maximum benefit is eight weeks during 2018, the first year of its rollout, 10 weeks during the second and third years, and 12 weeks the fourth and subsequent years, beginning on January 1, 2021. The 52-week clock starts on the first day you the employee takes Paid Family Leave.

Paid Family Leave coverage will be included under the disability policy that all employers must carry. The premium will be fully funded by NY employees via payroll deductions, expected to begin July 1, 2017. A maximum employee contribution rate will be established each year.

Each full-time or part-time private employee in New York State will be eligible for Paid Family Leave. Participation in the program is not optional for employees. If you are a public employee, your employer may opt into the program. Public employees who are represented by a union may be covered if Paid Family Leave is collectively bargained, so check with your union delegate.

An employee must be employed full-time for 26 weeks, or part time for 175 days to be eligible for NY’s new Paid Family Leave Benefit. Employees do not have to take all of their accrued sick leave and/or vacation time before using paid family leave. An employer may permit you to use sick or vacation leave to supplement the paid leave to that you may receive your full pay, but your company cannot require you to use your vacation or sick time if you don’t want to use it.

 

collage-paid family leave

(Source: New York State Paid Family Leave)

 

Maternity and Paternity Leave
Whether you’re a parent expecting a baby, or whether you’re fostering or adopting a child, you deserve to take time to care for your new baby without having to sacrifice your savings or your job. Now in 2018, you may be eligible for up to 8 weeks of employee-funded Paid Family Leave.

Paid Family Leave is not available for prenatal conditions, as the leave only begins after your baby’s birth or adoption. A mother or a father may take Paid Family Leave during the first 12 months following the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child.

Caring for a Close Relative with a Serious Health Condition
So, it’s now official. New Yorkers will have the right beginning in 2018 to be with their families in times of need without having to put their economic security at risk. The time you spend caring for a loved one with a serious health condition is critical. How does the law define close relative?

  • Spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Child
  • Parent
  • Parent in-law
  • Grandparent
  • Grandchild

A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves:

  • inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility; or
  • continuing treatment or continuing supervision by a health care provider.

For example, you need one or more full days to care for your father when he undergoes cardiac bypass surgery; or your mother is having a procedure followed by extensive recuperation; or your child is undergoing intense psychotherapy and is unable to attend school for a period of time. You can take Paid Family Leave in all of these types of scenarios.

Active Duty Deployment
Paid Family Leave is available for families eligible for time off under the military provisions in the federal Family Medical Leave Act when a spouse, child, domestic partner or parent of the employee is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order of active duty.

Paid Family Leave cannot be used for one’s own disability or qualifying military event. It may only be taken to care for your:

  • Spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Child
  • Parent

Elective treatments (such as cosmetic surgery) are not eligible conditions unless inpatient hospital care is required or complications develop. Ordinarily, unless complications arise, the flue, the common cold, ear aches, stomach upsets and minor ulcers, headaches other than migraines, routine dental problems, etc., are examples of conditions that do not meet the definition of a serious health condition. They would not qualify for Paid Family Leave.

 

Benefits

Year Weeks Available Max % of Employee Average Weekly Wage Cap % of State Average Weekly Wage
1/1/2018 8 50% 50%
1/1/2019 10 55% 55%
1/1/2020 10 60% 60%
1/1/2021 12 67% 67%

So, for example, in 2018, if an employee earns $1,000 a week, she would receive a benefit of $500 a week (50% of $1,000). Another employee who earns $2,000 a week would receive a benefit of approximately $648, because this employee is capped at one-half of New York State’s Average Weekly Wage (NYSAWW) currently $1,305.92 Half of that amount is the $652.96 benefit.

The Average Weekly Wage (AWW) is set every year after a comprehensive analysis by the New York State Department of Labor.

Learn more about applying for benefits.

The maximum Paid Family Leave benefit is based on the New York State Average Weekly Wage (NYSAWW). The 2016 AWW used for this calculation is $1,305.92. The AWW is updated annually on July 1 and is available here.

 

FAQs

Does Paid Family Leave cost me anything?
New York’s Paid Family Leave is entirely employee-funded. Meaning, the benefit is paid for by all NYS employees, so it’s spread so fine among millions as to be painless to the average worker.

Beginning on or after July 1, 2017, you may see a payroll deduction to pay for your Paid Family Leave benefit. The amount of the deduction will be established before July 2017.

Do I have to participate in the Paid Family Leave program?
Yes, Paid Family Leave is not optional for most employees. The exception is if you are in a job that will not allow you to attain the 26 continuous weeks or 175 days needed to qualify for Paid Family Leave (for example, the almost defunct “seasonal” worker).

I’m pregnant. Will I be able to receive Paid Family Leave during my pregnancy?
Paid Family Leave only begins after birth. It is not available for pre-natal conditions. If you’re disabled and can’t work due to a pregnancy-related medical condition that cannot be reasonably accommodated by your employer, than you may need to take a short-term disability leave.

Will I be able to use Paid Family Leave to take care of an eligible relative living outside New York?
Yes, as long as you are caring for an eligible family member, and provide the medical certification, you can take the Paid Family Leave and go anywhere to provide the care.

I am not a US citizen. Will I still be eligible for Paid Family Leave?
Yes. Your citizenship status has no impact on your Paid Family Leave eligibility. Isn’t that cool?

I am an undocumented worker. Can I take Paid Family Leave?
Yes. Your immigration status has no impact on your Paid Family Leave eligibility. Más cool.

Will I be able to use Paid Family Leave if I work part-time?
Yes, as long as you’ve worked 175 days part-time days you are eligible for a Paid Family Leave benefit.

I am collecting workers’ compensation. Can I use Paid Family Leave?
If you are not working and are collecting workers’ comp, you may not use Paid Family Leave.

I am a freelancer. Am I eligible for Paid Family Leave?
If you do not have a regular employer and work as an independent contractor, you will not have Paid Family Leave benefits unless you purchase coverage for yourself, as Paid Family Leave is just for employees, and technically, independent contractors are not employees under the law.

I am a farm laborer. Am I eligible for Paid Family Leave?
Unfortunately, if you’re a farm laborer, you are not eligible for disability or Paid Family Leave benefits.

Will I have to take all of my sick time and/or vacation before I use Paid Family Leave?
An employer may permit you to use vacation or sick leave for full salary, but may not require you to use either.

Can I take Paid Family Leave and use my sick and/or vacation time together so that I receive my full salary?
Yes, if your employer permits the use of your accrued sick and/or vacation time to allow you to receive your full salary, than you can certainly do so.

Will my spouse and I be able to use Paid Family Leave at the same time?
If you and your spouse have different employers, you are both eligible to take Paid Family Leave at the same time, but if you and your spouse work for the same employer, they can deny Paid Family Leave to more than one employee at the same time to care for the same family leave recipient, or to bond with the same child.

Do other states have Paid Family Leave?
New York will now join California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey as the only states in the nation that provide a Paid Family Leave benefit. Yet, when fully implemented, New York will have the longest and most comprehensive Paid Family Leave program in the nation. Yay.