How Does New York State’s Paid Family Leave Work?
If you live in New York State, and are of the childbearing years- you may have heard that in 2018 Paid Family Leave goes into effect. It sounds pretty great right? This is a historical moment to be celebrated. It will be the most comprehensive Paid Leave Program in all 50 states. Not only do new parents benefit, but those who need to care for a relative with a serious illness, or help out when a family member is deployed for active military service.
As someone who supports families during the unique time period of welcoming a baby into their family, I'm so excited about this policy and what it will mean for many families in New York State. It means that families who previously had no paid time off to bond with their new baby will not have that opportunity!
That all sounds good, but do you qualify, and if so what are the benefits?
This is what a lot of families are wondering. Recently Baby Caravan attended a training with Eric Williams and the New York Paid Leave Coalition to learn the ins and outs of Paid Family Leave that goes into effect January 1st of 2018. Here’s what we learned:
When Can You Use It?
- Bonding- After the birth of a child, fostering of a child, or adoption of a child, parents can take Paid Family Leave during the first 12 months together for bonding.
- Family Care- To care for a relative who has a serious illness* including a spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent or grandchild, an employee can take Paid Family Leave to provide care. The time off doesn’t have to be at one time, and can be used as single days if needed. The relative receiving care doesn’t have to live in New York State. One thing to note is that siblings are not included on this list, unless the sibling providing care was their guardian.
*serious illness includes: in patient care, continuing treatment, or supervision by a health care provider.
- Military- An employee can take Paid Family Leave to care for family if a family member is on active duty.
How Does It Work?
The Paid Family Leave program in New York State is an insurance program that all wage earners pay into through deductions from their paychecks. Deductions started July 1, 2017 and are capped at a maximum of $1.65/week in 2018
All private sector workers, regardless of company size, who work full time at 20 hours a week or more and have been employed for 26 consecutive weeks, or who are part-time at less than 20 hours a week who have worked 175 days since their employment start date.
If you have short term disability, you should have paid family leave.
What are the Exemptions?
Farm workers, clergy, public sector unions (ie: teachers, police officers, firefighters). The unions are working on collective bargaining to bring paid leave benefits to union members.
People who are self employed or independent contractors do not qualify. Though you may be able to purchase coverage through an insurance company.
Some seasonal workers are exempt from participating since they would never meet the requirements of working 175 days, or 26 weeks due to the nature of their job.
If an employer employees two parents of the same household, they are not required to allow both parents to take paid family leave at the same time.
What is the benefit?
Benefits will phase in over 4 years.
In 2018 the benefit will be capped at 50% of the average weekly wage (AWW) of the employee. By 2021 the benefit will increase to 67% of the AWW.
For example, if in 2018 you earn $1200 weekly, then you’d receive $600 per week in paid leave benefits.
Benefits are capped at the percentage of state average weekly wage. The AWW for 2016 is $1,305.92. So the maximum benefit for paid family leave in 2018 is $652.96, since the benefits is 50% pay. For individuals who earn above $1305.92 per week, knowing what this cap is will be helpful for budgeting purposes.
You can receive paid family leave benefits annually, so one year would need to pass before you could take it again.
What if My Job Offers 12 weeks Parental Leave or Paid Family Leave at 100% pay?
The Paid Family Leave is just a minimum benefit. 12% of private sector employees are covered by paid leave. There is a mechanism for employers to get reimbursed if the employer wants to cover 8 weeks of paid family leave benefit. The employer can offer additional paid leave benefits on top of that New York State program.
Will My Health Insurance Continue If I Go Out On Leave?
Yes, under this law, your health insurance is required to continue in the same manner. If an employee pays part of the premium, or the whole premium, they would continue to do so during their leave.
If the employer isn’t contributing, they don’t have to pay when their employee is on leave. If the employer is contributing toward their employees health insurance, they need to continue doing so during the leave period.
Can I Use My Vacation or Sick Days?
Yes, you are allowed to use your vacation and/or sick days, with employers approval, in addition to taking paid family leave benefits, though you are not required to do so.
Is My Job Protected Under Paid Family Leave?
Yes, paid family leave in New York is job protected. Your employer is required to reinstate you to your previous or a comparable position. The employer cannot discriminate for using the paid family leave benefit.
How Do I Apply for Leave?
- Talk to you manager, HR person, or business owner about what is required at your workplace.
- If possible alter your employer at leave 30 days in advance.
- Your employer can’t approve/deny your claim, the insurance company is in charge of that.
What If I Gave Birth in 2017?
Good news! Parents are eligible for up to one year after the birth/adoption/fostering of a child. If you’ve welcomed a child this year you are eligible. This is called a “look back period”.
What if I live in Connecticut but work in New York?
You’re covered! The paid family leave benefits are determined by where your employer is.
What if I live in New York but work in Connecticut?
Unfortunately you would not be covered in this instance.
Can I take short term disability insurance in addition to paid family leave?
Yes, you can take short term disability insurance in addition to paid family leave. This is typically 6 weeks for a vaginal birth and 8 weeks for a c-section birth. Short term disability does not provide job protection, unless your job is covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The benefit is capped at $170 per week since 1989. You can’t take short term disability and paid family leave benefits at the same time. Pregnancy complications and recovery are not covered under paid family leave, so if you have a complication due to pregnancy, you’ll need to take short term disability.
As updates about New York State's Paid Family Leave are made, we will update this article.