The New York State legislature finalized a budget deal that provides for up to twelve weeks paid family leave for both women and men. The program covers time off to bond with a new child, care for a family member with a serious health condition or to relieve family pressure when someone is called for active military duty. New York is the fifth state to mandate paid family leave for employees. New York’s program also provides longer and more comprehensive paid leave than its predecessor states.
New York’s new bill is distinguished from the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), because it mandates paid, rather than unpaid leave. Additionally, the FMLA only applies to companies with fifty or more employees. New York’s bill provides job protection for those working for small businesses as well. In addition, the New York program will cover full and part-time employees, with no exemptions for small businesses. To take advantage of the New York leave, one must only have been employed for six months, rather than twelve months as per the FMLA.
The good news for employers is that the program will be funded on an insurance model. Thus, approximately one dollar per week will be deducted from employee paychecks to cover the cost of the program. Employers will not make contributions. Nevertheless, small businesses have complained that they will incur costs, such as hiring temporary replacements or paying overtime to those covering for an employee on leave.
Under the bill, paid leave will begin January 1, 2018. Initially, employees will be eligible for up to eight weeks of paid leave per year. In 2019, employees will be eligible for up to ten weeks paid leave, and in 2021, up to twelve weeks. Initially, it will cover fifty percent of a worker’s average pay, but will rise to sixty seven percent over four years.