Prior to the amendment, NY PFL defined “family member” to mean a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, spouse, or domestic partner. Pursuant to this legislation, “family member” will have an expanded definition that will include “siblings,” which is further defined as a biological or adopted sibling, a half sibling or stepsibling. Supporters of the bill noted “the strong bond siblings share is undeniable,” and “for many individuals, siblings may be the only family member available to assist and provide health care in their time of need.”
Notably, the NY PFL was phased in from January 1, 2018, through January 1, 2021, incrementally increasing employee benefits each year. At full implementation on January 1, 2021, employees are entitled to up to twelve (12) weeks of paid leave annually, at 67 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage, capped at the same percentage of the New York State Average Weekly Wage. Employees can use NY PFL for the following reasons: 1) to bond with a newly born, adopted, or fostered child; 2) to care for a family member with a serious health condition; or 3) to assist loved ones when a spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent is deployed abroad on active military service.
While federal paid family leave has been a longstanding agenda item for the Biden Administration, it remains to be seen whether not federal legislation will ever be passed to provide for paid family leave. For the time being, federal law provides unpaid family leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
For employers covered by FMLA and NY PFL, they are already familiar with some of the differences between the laws. Beyond the distinction of FMLA being unpaid leave and NY PFL being paid leave, FMLA is more expansive than NY PFL given that it covers leave related to an employee’s own serious health condition, something that NY PFL does not cover. On the other hand, NY PFL already included a broader definition of “family members” since it includes grandparents and grandchild, whereas FMLA does not include those individuals. This recent amendment to NY PFL builds upon that expanded definition of “family member” to now include siblings, another category that is not covered by FMLA.
The bill will go into effect on January 1, 2023. Employers will want to revise policy and procedures governing NY PFL to account for this amendment. Employers are also well advised to train managers and those responsible for administering medical leaves on the nuances of NY PFL, and the differences between NY PFL and FMLA for employers covered by both laws.
In signing the bill, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul stated that taking care of family is a “basic human right,” and “no one should have to choose between caring for a loved one and a paycheck.” Senators, assembly members, and other members of the public have echoed their support for this bill. For example, New York State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef cited the fact that for some individuals, siblings may be the only family member available to assist during a time of need.
The impact is anticipated to be positive. For example, AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel applauded Gov. Hochul for signing the bill and indicated that expanding the program to include siblings helps employees and taxpayers by “fostering more productive workplaces and giving workers the economic peace of mind they need to provide invaluable care for their loved ones.”
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