New York Paid Family Leave Insurance Act
New York State has the nation’s newest — and its strongest and most comprehensive — law mandating paid family leave. Once effective on January 1st, 2018, the Paid Family Leave Insurance Act (“PFLIA”) will provide workers with up to eight weeks of paid leave. By 2021, workers in New York will be eligible to up to 12 weeks of paid leave.
Under PFLIA, both male and female employees are entitled to paid leave to: (a) care for a family member (including a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, spouse or domestic partner) with a serious health condition; (b) bond with a newborn or adopted or foster child during the first 12 months following birth or placement; and/or (c) address issues relating to a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent who is serving in the military. Distinct from the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the PFLIA does not include paid family leave related to a pregnant worker’s self-care, including recovery from childbirth. Presumably, the latter will correspond with baby bonding time permitted under the law.
Beginning in 2018, all full and part-time New York employees who have been working at their jobs for at least six months will be eligible for paid leave. The payment or “benefit” will initially consist of up to 50% of an employee’s weekly wage, capped at 50% of the New York Statewide Average Weekly Wage (“SAWW”). The benefit will increase each year until 2021, when workers will be entitled to receive benefits up to 67% of their weekly salary, capped at 67% of the SAWW. Employees out on paid family leave will also be entitled to continued health insurance benefits according to the same terms they received while on the job. The benefits under the PFLIA are significant when compared to what eligible workers currently receive under New York State’s Temporary Disability Insurance (“TDI”) program, which caps benefits at $170 per week.
Notably, the law relies solely on employee payroll deductions to fund the benefit. The maximum employee contribution in 2018 is 0.126% of an employee’s weekly wage capped at the annual SAWW, which is currently a maximum of $1.60. If employers violate the law, employees could be entitled to reinstatement and back pay. Unfortunately, there is no private right of action to go into Court. Instead, claims will be reviewed and decided by the New York Worker’s Compensation Board.