New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation adopting a 12-week paid family leave policy for New York employees on April 4. This family leave law will provide employees with up to 12 weeks of paid leave to allow them to care for a new child. They can also use this time to care for a family member with a serious health condition or relieve family pressures when a family member (spouse, domestic partner, child or parent) is called to serve in active military service.
In order to be eligible to receive paid family leave, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 6 months. Benefits will be available on the first full day leave is required for eligible employees.
Paid family leave to care for a new child will be available to men and women. It includes leave for adoptive and foster children as well. New York employees may take leave to care for a new child any time within the first 12 months post birth. For adoptive and foster children, the leave must be used 12 months after placement of a child.
The new legislation allows employers to establish rules limiting employees from receiving paid leave benefits for the care of the same family member at the same time as another employee. Since the paid leave law was just signed into legislation and the first phase of implementation is not scheduled to begin until 2018, there has not yet been any guidance issued on the law. The area of limiting leave when multiple employees are caring for an elderly family member is likely to come up as an issue during implementation of the law.
The family law leave will be funded by a weekly payroll tax of roughly $1 per employee. This will be deducted from paychecks. Employers will not take on the financial burden of funding benefits provided under the law. There will be administrative costs including implementing changes to internal policies and costs related to employee absences during leaves.
The new family leave policy will be implemented gradually to ensure there are minimal hiccups. Starting January 1, 2018, employees are eligible for up to 8 weeks of paid leave. They will earn 50% of their weekly pay. This pay will be capped at 50% of the statewide average weekly pay.
The number of weeks of family leave and amount of pay increases yearly until 2021 when employees will be eligible for the full 12 weeks of paid leave, earning 67% of their weekly pay. This will also be capped at 67% of the statewide average weekly pay.
This law is an exciting step forward for New York. Many hope that success with this act will encourage other states to follow in the footsteps of New York and adopt similar policies.