As we approach the New Year, it is important to keep in mind several updates to the New York Paid Family Leave Law (“NYPFLL”) that will become effective January 1, 2019. As we have previously reported, the NYPFLL provides a phased-in system of paid, job protected leave for eligible employees: (i) to care for a new child following birth, adoption, or placement in the home; (ii) to care for a family member with a serious health condition; or (iii) for qualifying exigencies related to military duty.
Effective January 1, 2019, the paid leave period under the NYPFLL will increase from 8 weeks to 10 weeks per year. The number of weeks available for paid family leave will continue to increase through 2021, when employees will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave under the NYPFLL.
Also effective January 1, 2019, employees taking leave under the NYPFLL will receive 55% of their average weekly wage (up from 50% in 2018), up to a cap of 55% of the current Statewide Average Weekly Wage ($1,357.11). In other words, the maximum weekly benefit for 2019 will increase from $652.96 to $746.41.
The employee contribution rate will also increase from 0.126% to 0.153% of an employee’s gross wages each pay period (capped at the Statewide Average Weekly Wage), which means that an employee’s maximum annual contribution will increase from $85.56 to $107.97. Employees earning less that the Statewide Average Weekly Wage, however, will contribute less, consistent with their actual wages. Employers may start taking deductions at the new rate on January 1, 2019.
The State has updated the FAQ section of its website, which addresses, among other things, the benefits available to employees who start a period of leave under the NYPFLL in 2018 that extends into 2019. The FAQs make clear that employees will receive the benefit rate and number of weeks in effect on the first day of their leave. For example, if an employee starts continuous leave in 2018, and it extends into 2019, the employee is not eligible for the benefits at the 2019 rate. However, an employee who takes intermittent leave in 2018 may be eligible for increased benefits if more than three months passes before the employee’s next day or period of leave (as this is considered to be a new claim under the law).
In addition, the FAQs also address employees who have exhausted their NYPFLL benefits in 2018 and experience another qualifying event in 2019. Because eligibility for paid family leave is based on a rolling 52-week period measured retroactively from each day leave is requested, an employee requesting leave in 2019 who took eight weeks of leave in the last 52 weeks may be limited to two additional weeks of leave at the 2019 rate. The employee would begin to accrue additional weeks of leave at the increased rate once 52 weeks passes from the start of the employee’s 2018 leave period.
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Employers in New York are encouraged to review their current NYPFLL policies and practices to ensure compliance with the updated requirements.