Beginning in January 2018, New York’s Paid Family Leave Law (PFLL) will provide all New York employees with 50 percent of their wages for eight weeks while they are taking off work to care for a loved one. The new law, passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, will gradually increase the employee’s reimbursement until it pays out 67 percent of an employee’s wages for a 12-week period in 2021. The new law will be fully funded through payroll tax deductions.
Advocates of the new law hope that the PFLL will address the “gaps” not covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal law that also applies to family members taking time off from work to care for a sick loved one. There are several notable differences between the federal law and New York’s. First, the FMLA only applies to employers with over 50 employees in a 75-mile radius, the PFLL applies to all employers in New York. Second, the PFLL extends to domestic partnerships. Third, unlike the FMLA, New York’s Paid Family Leave Law does not apply to employee’s who take time off to care for their own health problem. Fourth, the FMLA requires employees to work for 12 months to become eligible for benefits while the PFLL only requires employees to work for 26 months. Last, the most important difference is that the PFLL provides for compensation during the employee’s absence while the FMLA is typically unpaid. When both New York’s PFLL and the FMLA apply to an employee’s leave, the employee’s paid leave with both benefit programs will apply simultaneously as long as the employer provides the proper notice required under the FMLA.
In order to qualify for New York’s PFLL wage reimbursement, the employee must have been employed full-time for 26 weeks or part-time for 175 days at the time he or she applies for the program’s benefits. In addition, employees will only be eligible if: (1) they are parents bonding with a new child, (2) caring for a sick family member or (3) if there is qualifying crisis arising from a family member’s military service. If an employee meets this criteria, then he or she will be entitled to partially-reimbursed wages, a continuation of their healthcare during their paid leave, and reinstatement to their former employment at the conclusion of their paid leave.
Announcing the regulations set to go into effect next year, Gov. Cuomo said that “There is a time in everyone’s lives where being there for a loved one in need is more important than anything and – finally – New Yorkers will no longer have to choose between losing their job and being a decent human being. By enacting and implementing the strongest paid family leave program in the nation, this administration is taking yet another step forward to providing economic justice to all New Yorkers.”
When the law comes into effect next year, New York will be joining California, Washington, and Arizona to become the fourth state with a family paid medical leave law.