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New York State Paid Family Leave benefits started January 1st

One of the biggest changes of the New Year for New Yorkers is the start of the New York State Paid Family Leave (NYPFL). Under the new leave law, eligible private sector employees can take up to eight weeks of paid family leave. The program phases in over the next four years. Other states offering paid family leave are California, Rhode Island and New Jersey.

FMLA verses NYPFL

Employees can take time away from work to bond with a new child, care for a relative with a serious health condition or when a family member is deployed. While often compared to the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), there are key differences between the programs. FMLA leave is unpaid and only businesses that employ 50 workers or more must comply. By contrast, the NYPFL leave is paid and employers must comply.

As with FMLA, employers must reinstate an employee returning from NYPFL to the same or a comparable position. An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for taking leave by terminating employment, reducing pay or any other disciplinary reaction related to the leave.

The financials

NYPFL is worker funded by employee payroll deductions. In 2018, the employee payroll contribution is 0.126 percent of the employee's weekly earnings with a maximum annual contribution of $85.56. The wage deduction and cap will be recalculated annually.

Right now, employees can earn 50 percent of their average weekly wages while on leave. This increases to 67 percent during the final phase in 2021. The leave earnings are capped at 50 percent of the New York State Average Weekly Wage (SAWW). This can be limiting for employees who earn more than the SAWW. For instance, if you earned $2,000 per week before taking the leave, you could only earn $652.96 while on leave because the SAWW is $1,305.92. The SAWW is also recalculated annually.

Eligibility

Full time employees who work 20 hours or more per week are eligible after 26 weeks of employment. NYPFL also applies to part time employees who work less than 20 hours per week after the employee has worked for 175 days. The days do not need to be consecutive. Employees are eligible regardless of citizenship or immigration status. Employees do have the option to opt out of the NYPFL program if they will not meet the minimum amount of working time required for eligibility, but can voluntarily opt back in at any time.

Work-life balance initiatives continue to change work environments as businesses strive to give workers the ability to balance family and work commitments. Is your employer complying with the new NYPFL policy?

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