New York Passes Nation’s First Comprehensive Paid Family Leave Law

On April 4, 2016, New York became the first state to provide up to 12 weeks of pay to employees who take family leave. Only a few other states—including California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island—provide paid family leave to workers who take time off to care for a new baby or ill family member. However, those states only provide pay for four to six weeks.

The new law will make paid family leave accessible to a much larger number of employees in New York. Currently, only larger employers (those with 50 or more employees) must provide time off to employees for their own illness, the illness of a family member, or to care for a new child. Employees must meet certain eligibility requirements, including having worked for the employer for at least a year. New York’s new paid family leave law applies to all employers, regardless of size, and to all employees who have completed six months of employment.

As in other states, New York’s paid family leave benefits will be paid by the state, rather than by employers. The program will be funded through payroll deductions from employee paychecks. The law will take effect on January 1, 2018 and will be phased in as follows:

  • January 1, 2018: 50% of average wages for eight weeks
  • January 1, 2019: 55% of average wages for ten weeks
  • January 1, 2020: 60% of average wages for ten weeks
  • January 1, 2021: 67% of average wages for twelve weeks

New York’s law also differs from other state paid family leave laws in that it provides job protection. In other states, paid family leave programs grant only the right to collect benefits; they do not provide an entitlement to leave. New York’s law gives employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of leave and to reinstatement to their jobs when their leave is over.

Employees may take paid family leave to bond with a new child, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or to attend to urgent matters arising out of a family member’s call to active military duty. Employees may not use paid family leave to recover from their own illness or serious health condition. However, those employees may be eligible for temporary disability benefits through the state.