When it comes to paid family leave, the Empire State offers the king of all programs. Unfortunately, navigating its ins-and-outs can sometimes pose a real challenge.
Effective January 1, 2018, New York Paid Family Leave (NYPFL) entitles most New Yorkers to paid leave for a number of scenarios. Below we’ll summarize how the program works, how to handle its payroll deductions, and what employers need to know to stay compliant.
The NYPFL program provides workers with job-protected leave in three key situations. If you need help keeping track of these, just remember your “ABCs.”
Assisting loved ones when a family member is called into military service
Bonding with a newborn or newly adopted child or foster child
Caring for a loved one suffering from an illness or injury
Eagle-eyed readers will note that NYPFL provides individuals with time to help others, but not themselves. Employees looking to take time for their own illness or injury should turn to the Family Medical Leave Act or their respective jurisdiction’s sick leave program. In New York City, for example, workers are entitled to up to 40 hours of sick leave per year.
In 2018, qualifying beneficiaries are entitled to 8 weeks of paid leave, compensable at 50 percent of their average weekly wage (AWW). Importantly, this amount is capped at 50 percent of the state average weekly wage (SAWW), or no higher than 50 percent of the state average weekly wage. When calculated, that cap equals $652.96 per week.
While the above covers 2018 benefits, note that the law is phased in over time. New Yorkers are entitled to more leave with each passing year. When fully implemented in 2021, the law will give workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave at 67 percent of their regular wages—making NYPFL the most generous state program of its kind.
NYPFL Benefits (2018-2021)
|Year||Weeks of Leave||Benefit|
|2018||50% of employee's AWW, up to 50% of SAWW|
|2019||55% of employee's AWW, up to 55% of SAWW|
|2020||60% of employee's AWW, up to 60% of SAWW|
|2021||67% of employee's AWW, up to 67% of SAWW|
Employers concerned about covering the costs of paid leave need not worry—like California’s program, NYPFL is funded entirely through employee payroll deductions. These deductions are calculated at a rate of 0.126% of weekly wages, with contributions capped at no more than $85.56 per year. Contributions from individuals earning less than the state’s annual average weekly wage will fall below this cap.
Whether you’re a payroll professional looking for a second opinion or just curious to see what your own NYPFL deductions are, the state offers a useful deductions calculator here. Work with your payroll provider to ensure these deductions are being handled accordingly.
So how do employees and employers actually go about administering NYPFL? Thankfully for overwhelmed HR and payroll teams, the application process is driven mostly by employees. Below are the steps involved in applying for paid leave.
Step 1: Assuming that the reason for taking leave is foreseeable, the employee notifies the employer at least 30 days in advance. In cases of emergency, like a family member suddenly falling ill, this requirement is waived.
Step 2: The employee must complete and submit the Request for Paid Family Leave form (Form PFL-1) to the employer. The employer then completes Part B of the form and returns it within 3 days.
Step 3: The employee completes all the necessary follow-up forms based on the nature of the leave and obtains supporting documentation (e.g., a birth certificate, military deployment certification, etc.) These potential follow-up forms include:
Form PFL-5 (in cases where a family member is called into military service)
Form PFL-2 (for bonding with a child)
- Forms PFL-3 and PFL-4 (to care for a loved one with an illness or injury)
Step 4: The employee sends their completed forms and documentation to the insurance carrier, which accepts or denies the claim within 18 days.
Finding a Partner
While the above serves as a primer on how NYPFL works, there’s no shortage of quirks and nuances that HR professionals need to be aware of. Some of the burning questions Namely’s own Managed Services team has fielded include:
If you’re a multistate employer, how does the law interact with other state programs?
Can you require employees to use up their vacation days before taking leave?
Are New Jersey-based commuters eligible for the benefit?
Is there a posting requirement included in the law? (Hint: There is!)
To navigate questions like these, don’t go it alone—we recommend working with a partner well-versed in the law. Whether it’s your broker or payroll administrator, consult with them to ensure that your practices are NYPFL-compliant before that first Form PFL-1 crosses your desk.