NYS Paid Family LeaveWhat to consider as you prepare

By Cindy Lawrence, HR Consultant

Employers are most likely already aware of New York State’s Paid Family Leave Program, effective January 1, 2018.  If an employer is required to provide Disability coverage, then they will also be required to provide Paid Family Leave to employees. Employers with even one employee will be required to comply with this new leave benefit, unlike the federal FMLA which only applies to employers with 50 or more employees in a 75 mile geographic range.  Below are areas for consideration and tips to assist you.

Eligibility:

Paid leave will be available to full time employees who have worked 26 weeks in the 52 weeks preceding the first day of their leave.  Part time employees will also be eligible for paid leave benefits provided they have worked 175 days in the 52 weeks preceding the first day of their leave.

Tips & Considerations:

  • Do you currently use a standard other than 20 hours to differentiate between full time and part time classifications? Should you consider making your classifications consistent with PFL definitions?
  • If you employ part time employees, does your payroll or time and attendance system track days worked?
  • What is your strategy for staffing coverage when employees take PFL?

Reasons for Leave:

Paid leave will be available to employees as needed to care for or assist a family member with a serious health condition; bond with a newborn or adopted child during the first year after the birth or adoption; or to provide support when a family member is called to active military duty.

Tips & Considerations:

  • Look to your Disability insurance carrier to provide you with application and certification forms, along with guidance as to how they will administer and approve or deny leave requests.
  • The employer portion of the application for benefits must be completed and returned to the employee within 3 business days. How will you handle turning around these requests (and documenting that you have done so) in a timely manner?

Amount of Benefit and Length of Leave:

Paid leave benefits will be phased in, starting at 50% of the employee’s average weekly wage (AWW), with a cap that correlates to the state’s AWW (set annually) for a period of 8 weeks.  In 2021 the benefits will max out at 67% of the employee’s AWW, for a period of 12 weeks.

Tips & Considerations:

  • Be prepared to designate leaves as covered under both PFL and FMLA concurrently.  Otherwise you risk the employee “stacking” their leaves. Using leaves consecutively could result in a total of 20 weeks at the start of the program (8 weeks paid under PFL and 12 weeks unpaid under FMLA if you have > 50 employees), up to 24 weeks in 2021.
  • How will you integrate paid time off under PFL with your existing time off policies?

Who pays for the program?

Employee payroll deductions fund the program.  The deduction amount is set at 0.126% of the employee’s weekly gross wage, with a cap based on the state determined AWW. Employers may pay the premiums instead of making payroll deductions, if they wish. Deductions may have been taken starting July 1, 2017; most employers will start deductions January 1, 2018.

Tips & Considerations:

  • Do you have hourly employees whose gross pay may vary from week to week? Is your payroll system set up to calculate these deductions automatically?  Does your system calculate out to 3 decimal places?
  • Are you going to take deductions from employees? When will these deductions start? How will you notify employees of the payroll deduction? Will you hold educational meetings?
  • You may NOT take deductions retroactively so make sure you start them in a timely manner.

Employee Rights and Notification

Employers must update their Employment Manuals to include this policy.  Employers must post the NYS provided poster for employees to be aware of their rights and how to access the paid leave. Similar to FMLA, PFL requires the continuation of the employee’s health insurance during leave (unless the employee wishes to drop coverage) as well as restoring the employee to their position (or an equivalent one) upon their return from leave.

Tips & Considerations:

  • Have you developed or published your PFL policy, or are you preparing to do so?
  • NY State will be releasing their Notification of Rights poster.  Watch for it so that you can to post it.  (Hopefully it will be released prior to January 1!)
  • If you haven’t been subject to FMLA requirements in the past, are you prepared to handle the extension of employee health insurance coverage and job protection?

 

If any of these considerations have you concerned, your ESC HR Consultant can assist you in preparing your organization for implementation of the NYS Paid Family Leave.  To attend one of our Paid Family Leave Seminars, contact us for a list of upcoming dates so that we can do our best to reserve a spot for you.