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What should I know about New York's Paid Family Leave?

Paid family leave is coming to New York. As of Jan. 1, 2018, a new law takes effect that officials in Albany describe as a "pivotal next step in the pursuit of equality and dignity in both the workplace and home."

Few would dispute that description, though many might argue that it's been too long in coming. They might equally argue that it's not enough. Still, it is the law, and because it is mandatory and employees will be paying for the benefit, we thought it a good time to look at some of the key provisions. Protecting employee's rights requires that employees know what they are.

The minimum

The intent of Paid Family Leave is to ensure a measure of wage stability at the times families need it most - parents bonding with children; when a close relative requires care because of a serious health issue; or to provide family support when a loved one is called to active military Service. The law guarantees that a worker's job and health coverage will be maintained during the leave period.

In addition, plans call for gradual increased implementation. So in the first year, a worker would be able to receive at least 50-percent of their normal weekly wage for up to eight weeks. However, there's a cap on the benefit, set at 50-percent of the New York State Average Weekly Wage (NYSAWW), which is currently $1,305.92. So the maximum paid leave benefit in 2018 will be $652.96.

When the law is fully implemented in 2021, employees will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave at a maximum rate of 67-percent of whatever the NYSAWW is at that time.

Specifics to know

Employees fully pay for this leave benefit. It is not optional. There are provisions in the law that allow part-time workers to receive the benefit, as well. If you are a freelance or contract worker, you will only have the benefit if you buy coverage for yourself.

Paid leave is not available to some, such as farm workers, but one's status in the United States does not affect eligibility.

Also, even though the benefit under paid leave is partial, it is possible for an employee to get full salary coverage by combining paid leave with accrued sick or vacation time.

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