New York’s Paid Family Leave Law

New York employees can receive part of their wages while off work to bond with a child or care for a family member.

Beginning on January 1, 2018, New York will provide paid family leave benefits to employees who take time off to care for a new baby, to care for an ill family member, or when a family member is called to active military duty. These benefits are paid by the state, not by employers. The program is funded through payroll deductions from employee paychecks.

Who Is Eligible?

Nearly all employees are eligible for paid family leave in New York once they have worked for their employers for at least six months (or 175 days for part-time employees). A few categories of workers are not eligible for paid family leave benefits, including farm laborers and certain workers of religious, educational, or charitable organizations. Independent contractors are not eligible for benefits either.

What Reasons Qualify for Paid Family Leave?

To receive benefits, employees must take leave for one of the following reasons:

  • to bond with a new child within the first year of birth, adoption, or foster placement
  • 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.

For leave medical leave, a “family member” includes a spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, or grandchild. A “serious health condition” is one that requires either inpatient care or continuing treatment and supervision by a health care provider.

For military exigency leave, a “family member” includes a spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent.

Employees may not use paid family leave to recover from their own illnesses or serious health conditions. However, those employees may be eligible for temporary disability benefits through the state.

How Much Are Benefits?

Once fully implemented, New York’s paid family leave program will provide up to twelve weeks of paid leave, which is more than any other state. The benefit rate and duration will be increase over several years as follows:

  • January 1, 2018: 50% of the employee’s average wages for eight weeks
  • January 1, 2019: 55% of the employee’s average wages for ten weeks
  • January 1, 2020: 60% of the employee’s average wages for ten weeks, and
  • January 1, 2021: 67% of the employee’s average wages for twelve weeks.

However, these benefits are subject to a state cap based on the statewide average weekly wage. For example, in 2018, employees cannot receive more than 50% of the statewide average weekly wage.

Does the Law Provide Job Protection?

Unlike some other state paid family leave laws, New York’s law provides job protection to employees. Employees who take paid family leave are entitled to be reinstated to their normal position or to one that is comparable in pay, benefits, and other conditions of employment. Employers are also prohibited from taking any negative action against an employee for using paid family leave.

How Do I Apply for Benefits?

Beginning on January 1, 2018, you should notify your employer that you plan to file a claim for paid family leave benefits. Your employer will give you the necessary forms to file a claim. If the reason for your leave is foreseeable—for example, a family member has a scheduled surgery—you must give 30 days’ notice. If the need for leave is not foreseeable, you must give your employer as much notice as possible.

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