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New York State Introduces Paid Family Leave

April 7, 2016

By 2018, employers in New York will be required to provide their employees with paid family leave. The federal Family Medical Leave Act requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain qualifying conditions such as the birth or adoption of a child or for the treatment of a serious health condition. Many states, such as Connecticut, have passed their own medical leave statutes which provide additional leave, on top of the 12 weeks guaranteed by federal law. In addition, those state statutes typically require fewer than 50 employees for an employer to be covered under the act. Prior to this week, New York did not have its own medical leave statute supplementing the federal FMLA, but on April 4, it joined California, New Jersey and Rhode Island as the only states to offer their employees paid family leave. As part of the state’s 2016-2017 budget, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation which enacts a statewide $15 minimum wage plan and a 12-week paid family leave policy. 

The bill covers all employers — regardless of size — and requires them to provide eligible employees with 12 weeks of paid family leave. Eligible employees include all full- and part-time employees who have been employed at least six months. 

The paid benefit program will be phased in over three years. Beginning on January 1, 2018, employers will be required to provide up to eight weeks of paid leave at a rate of 50 percent of the individual’s average weekly wage, capped at 50 percent of the statewide average weekly wage, which was $1,266.44 in 2014. In 2019 and 2020, employees will be eligible for up to 10 weeks of paid leave at rates of 55 percent and 60 percent, respectively, of the employee’s average weekly wage, capped at 55 percent and 60 percent of the statewide average. The phase-in will be complete in 2021, when employers will be required to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave at a rate of 67 percent of the individual’s average weekly wages, capped at 67 percent of the statewide average. To offset the burden to employers, the program will be funded by employees through payroll deductions that will begin at $0.70 per employee per week and will end up at $1.40. Hopefully, New York can avoid the failures of other states by eliminating the financial burden on employers.

Employers with fewer than 50 employees must be aware that they will soon be required to offer medical leave for the first time and therefore need to develop and implement policies and procedures to that effect.  In addition, in light of the fact that all aspects of this program are being rolled out in phases — including the number of weeks, the wages, and payroll deductions — the transition to this program could pose difficulties for employers.  Therefore, please contact our employment team to get ready for these changes.  

For more information about the impact of this new legislation, please contact: