New York’s Pending Family Leave Law: How You Can Prepare

June 29, 2017
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Category: Zenefits

Paid family and medical leave legislation in NYC

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees with 12 weeks of job-protected leave, but federal law does not require this leave to be paid–effectively leaving the decision in the hands of covered employers. In the absence of paid family or sick leave provisions in federal law, a growing number of states, including California, New York, Washington, and Arizona have begun to fill the gap.  Stay tuned as we discuss major developments in the 2017 leave landscape, and how Zenefits can help you comply with the new regulations in your state or city!

Pending in New York

With its Paid Family Leave Benefits Law (“PFLBL”) set to go into effect on January 1, 2018, New York is the latest to join the cohort of states requiring some form of paid family leave, including California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Washington. From January 2018 onwards, eligible employees in the state of New York will receive job-protected paid leave for family and medical reasons, such as bonding with new children, and caring for family members with serious health conditions, or during active military service.  

NOTE: New York has yet to issue the finalized Paid Family Leave regulations in the aftermath of its latest comment period, which ended this month (June 2017). Make sure to check back in with us for guidelines on the finalized law!

An Overview for Employers

The program will be phased in from 2018-2021, with both leave duration and wages increasing annually until their cap in 2021. The law aims to provide employees with 12 weeks of job-protected paid leave, and pay the lesser of 67% of employees’ weekly wages or the New York state average wage by 2021. NY-PFLBL will apply to employers with 1 or more employees, and will be funded through employee payroll deductions.  Covered employers are required to maintain all group health insurance benefits for the duration of the employee’s leave, on the same terms and conditions as provided during their active employment. Employers are also responsible for implementing the deductions process to cover the program.

EMPLOYER ACTION REQUIRED: Payroll Deductions

The maximum available benefit in 2018 will cover the lesser of 50% of the employee’s weekly earnings, or the NY state average weekly wage. Employees whose income equals or exceeds the statewide average in 2018 can only receive the maximum family leave benefit, which is capped at 50% of the statewide average. While the finalized legislation is pending, the Department of Financial Services has already set the premium rate for Family Leave Benefits and the maximum employee contribution for coverage at 0.126% of the employee’s weekly wages, not to exceed the NY state average weekly wage.  Employers may then kickstart the necessary employee payroll deductions on or after July 1, 2017.

  • Opting Out: : Employers must provide employees whose regular work schedule renders them ineligible for family leave coverage, an option to file a waiver that will exempt them from making contributions for NY-PFL coverage.
  • Employees may waive family leave benefits, and opt-out of NY PFL payroll contributions if: (1) they work 20 or more hours but under 26 consecutive weeks in a 52 consecutive week period OR (2) they work less than 20 hours, but under 175 days (25 weeks), in a 52 consecutive week period.
  • This waiver will be deemed revoked within 8 weeks of a work schedule change that makes the employee eligible for NY-PFL coverage.

PFLBL v. FMLA

New York Paid Family Leave is meant to run concurrently with FMLA for covered employers, but the proposed regulations contain certain key distinctions:

  • Eligibility: One notable difference is that employees may become eligible for FMLA and NY-PFLBL at different points. Where the FMLA requires employees to complete 1,250 work hours over 12 months to be eligible for leave, the NY law allows employees to take leave if they work 20 or more hours per week over 26 consecutive work weeks. Employees whose regular work schedule is less than 20 hours per week will become eligible for New York Paid Family Leave after 175 days of employment.
  • Different Reasons for Leave: In addition to a different eligibility threshold, unlike FMLA, New York employees cannot take paid family leave for their own serious health conditions. Employees will only receive this benefit for the care of a new child, close relative with a serious health condition, or military family member.
    • Family Member: The proposed regulations also expand the FMLA definition of “family member” to include domestic partners, in-laws, grandparents, and grandchildren for PFLBL eligibility.
  • Paid Time Off: In contrast to the FMLA, New York employers may not require their employees to exhaust accrued sick leave or vacation time in lieu of their paid family leave. However, employees may do so voluntarily for the purposes of receiving their full salary during their leave. Please note, the final regulations on this may change, and will provide more clarity on a potential exemption from this requirement for FMLA-qualifying New York employers.

How do you navigate these legislative changes for your business? That’s where Zenefits comes in. Our integrated software makes managing everything employee time-tracking simple, so you can focus on running your business. See just how easy managing hourly employees, PTO and accrual can be here: 

 

Our team helps you get set up with the tools you need to comply with new family and sick leave laws. Visit our Help Center for further details on coverage, notice, and paid time off requirements. Request a demo with one of our HR specialists today to learn more. 

About

Anagha Krishnan is a Regulatory Analyst at Zenefits. She is focused on developments in the HR, Benefits, and Payroll space, and helping small businesses get in compliance with new regulations. A Berkeley Law grad, Anagha enjoys pop culture podcasts, trying out new tea blends, and getting to the beach when she can.

Category: Zenefits


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