Paid Family Leave Demystified
by Robert M. Sherlach
In 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Paid Family Leave legislation, commonly referred to as “PFL,” into law. New York now joins California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey as the only states to have Paid Family Leave available to employees. Many employers and employees in New York State are curious about this new benefit and how to comply with it. Here are some PFL basics to help “demystify” the new legislation.
Starting in January 2018, PFL becomes a mandatory benefit in New York, providing job protection and paid time off to all employees for three categories of qualifying events:
Providing care for a family member with a severe health condition.
To bond with a child after birth, adoption, or to welcome a child into foster care.
To cope with a military exigency leave event.
PFL leave will be funded through employee payroll contributions/deductions, however PFL is like the Disability benefits currently available to New York employees because employers can choose to fund it themselves and not take the deduction. If an employer does choose to take the deduction from employees, the deduction cannot exceed each employee’s maximum contribution. The 2018 weekly, maximum contribution is 0.126% of an employee’s weekly wage capped at New York’s current weekly average weekly wage (AWW) of $1,305.92.
Although this benefit is not available until January 2018, employers had the option of starting PFL deductions in July of 2017, and many employers have already started to do just that. This is to allow them to begin building a “bank” of sorts to be prepared for any employee who may file in January 2018.
Some items of interest about PFL:
Employers are not required to pay deductions back to employees leaving the company between July 2017 and January 2018.
Employers may begin to take PFL deduction from an employee’s time of hire – although an employee must work at least 20 hours a week for 26 consecutive weeks at their current employer to qualify for PFL.
Employers must maintain an employee’s job at the same level of pay as when the employee starts the leave, and they must maintain all the employee’s health insurance benefits as long as the employee continues to make contributions.
If an employee works less than 20 hours per week, he/she must have completed 175 work days for that current employer to qualify.
Employees who are not eligible for PFL because they do not work full time for at least 26 consecutive weeks or part time for at least 175 days, must be provided with the option of filing for a waiver that will exempt the employee from having any PFL deductions withheld from their wages.
Increased PFL benefits will be phased in over time. For instance:
As of January 1, 2018, employees may take up to eight weeks of leave during a 52-week period and receive the lower of 50% of their weekly wage or the state’s average weekly wage.
As of January 1, 2019, employees may take up to 10 weeks of leave during a 52-week period and receive the lower of 50% of their average weekly wage or the state’s average weekly wage.
As of January 1, 2020, eligible employees may take up to 10 weeks of leave during a 52-week period and receive the lower of 60% of their average weekly wage or the state’s average weekly wage.
As of January 1, 2021, eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave during a 52-week period and receive the lower of 67% of their average weekly wage or the state’s average weekly wage.
To learn more about PFL online, visit https://www.ny.gov/programs.
Robert Sherlach is the Hudson Valley Manager for GTM Payroll Services, a national payroll, human resource, and time and attendance management company. He can be reached at R.Sherlach@gtm.com.