As of January 1, 2018, almost all private employers, with one or more employees, are required to offer paid family leave to their employees. The Family Leave benefits were put in place for you to help your employees care for their families as they need to. Family leave has been shown to boost workplace morale, and increase employee retention. If you’re looking to see how the newly enacted family leave benefit will affect your workplace, keep reading.
What Benefits Does the New York State Paid Family Leave Offer?
When your employee is on paid family leave, they will earn a percentage of their average weekly wage, up to the same percentage of the predetermined state average weekly wage, or SAWW. This SAWW is updated annually and determined by New York State. Eligible employees can take their paid time off and receive a percentage of their average weekly wage, which is capped at the same percentage of the New York State Average Weekly Wage. (For example, the cap for 2019 for a SAWW is 55% of the 2017 calendar year SAWW, $1,357.11.) To explain further, an employee’s AWW is the average of their pay over the last eight weeks in which the employee worked and received wages, prior to beginning their paid leave. Does this make sense? Here’s a helpful graphic showing what your employees can expect to receive over the next 2 years.
|NEW YORK STATE PAID FAMILY LEAVE BENEFITS 2019 THROUGH 2021|
|Year||Weeks of Leave||Employee Benefits|
|2019||10 weeks||55% of employee’s average weekly wage, up to 55% of SAWW|
|2020||10 weeks||60% of employee’s average weekly wage, up to 60% of SAWW|
|2021||12 weeks||67% of employee’s average weekly wage, up to 67% of SAWW|
Who Is Eligible for Paid Family Leave?
New York Family Leave benefit requirements have been designed in such a way that they require employers to offer paid family leave and job protection for any employees who qualify for three specific life events. It is worth noting that an employee would not be eligible to take advantage of the family leave benefits for their own illness of health condition. (For the record, FMLA would be the route to pursue for a situation such as this to be covered for an employee, although unpaid, and could be utilized for the following events as well.)
The qualifying situations include:
- Bonding with a new child within the first 12 months of their birth (or to bond with a newly adopted or fostered child within the first 12 months of their adoption/placement).
- Caring for a family member who is seriously ill or has a serious medical condition.
Eligible family members include:
- a spouse or domestic partner of any gender
- parents or stepparents
- children or stepchildren
- Supporting family members/family obligations when a military family member is deployed abroad on active duty. This also includes any military events associated with active duty, post-deployment activities, and rest or counseling for service members.
Every full-time New York State employee that has worked for their employer for at least 26 consecutive weeks will be eligible for this paid family leave following a qualifying event. Part-time employees must have worked at least 175 days and do not need to be consecutively worked.
How Often Can An Employee Request Paid Leave?
It is important to note that there are certain restrictions on the 10 week leave time, so we’ll break that down for you to better understand. Firstly, an employee can utilize their 10 week leave once every *rolling* 52 weeks. This means their eligibility does not renew with the calendar year, but depends on the first time they requested it. The maximum leave amount will reset once every 52 weeks. Employees can request less than a full week of leave at a time.
What Is The Employer’s Role?
As the employer, your first step is to set up the policy, since paid Family Leave is an insurance benefit. Reach out to your insurance company and ask about available policies, as paid family leave is typically able to be added on as a rider to an existing disability policy, but does not replace it. Since this is paid for by employee contributions, this is not an out of pocket cost for you. You pay for your insurance policy using the contributions you collect.
Currently, In 2019, the employee contribution is 0.153% of an employee’s gross wages each pay period. The maximum annual contribution is $107.97. These numbers are updated annually and determined by New York State. They are accessible at https://paidfamilyleave.ny.gov/cost.
Additionally, make sure to inform your employees of their options in any written materials, like an employee handbook, or any other form of written guidance. Your insurance company will provide you with a notice to post and/or give to employees. Be sure to include what their paid family leave benefits are, and how to file a request. Be sure to respond to requests for paid leave and familiarize yourself with how to handle these requests.
Don’t forget to update your payroll to reflect the employee contributions and offer waiver forms to employees who are ineligible to receive benefits.
Ultimately, it’s important to be prepared to accept leave requests from your employees. If you already offer paid family leave, be sure that your benefit offers what the law requires, at a minimum, but it is your choice to supplement these benefits. If you choose to pay full wages to your employees while they are on paid family leave, you may request reimbursement from your insurance provider up to the amount payable under your family leave policy.
For more information, including Paid Family Leave forms and other resources for employers, visit PaidFamilyLeave.ny.gov or call (844) 337-6303.