New York State Paid Family Leave Law went into effect January 1, 2018
The New York State Paid Family Leave Law took effect on January 1, 2018. This important law applies to all employers in New York State, including all dental practices, regardless of size or type--no exceptions, no exemptions. It is not a law NYSDA supported, but it was a priority of the governor, which coupled with broad public support, made it a law the Legislature was destined to pass.
The New York State Department of Financial Services has set the allowable payroll deduction rate for an employer to implement the family leave program. The maximum employee contribution in 2018 is 0.126% of an employee’s weekly wage, up to the annualized New York State Average Weekly Wage. While an employer must pay for the program, the option of using employee payroll deductions makes it a no-cost program for employers. An employer does not have to use the payroll deduction option, but the employer then still has to pay for the program.
Coverage for the program is provided through an employer’s Workers’ Compensation disability benefits insurer; every dentist should be in contact with his or her insurer to set up the paid family leave program. The intent of the law was for employees to completely fund the program through a payroll deduction system. While employers have the option to pay for the program themselves, instead of using employee payroll deductions, that is not expected to be a common choice.
What the Law Covers
The law guarantees employees the following:
- Wage replacement for 8 weeks in 2018, increasing to 12 weeks by 2021.
- Job protection upon return from paid family leave.
- Continuation of health insurance while out on paid family leave.
Job protection is defined as returning to the same job or a job comparable to the one the employee held prior to taking leave. Employers may require that employees continue to pay their health insurance premium contributions.
Employees can seek paid family leave for the following broad reasons:
- When paid leave is necessary to provide care, including physical or psychological care, to family members due to a family member’s serious health condition.
- To bond with a newborn child during the first year of the child’s life or, in the case of adoption or foster care placement, for the first year after placement of a child with the employee.
- For any qualifying reason as provided for under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act arising from the employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child or parent being on active military duty or, alternatively, being notified of an impending call or order to active military duty.
An employer may not discriminate or retaliate against employees for taking or inquiring about paid family leave.
Employers must ensure that their employees are aware of the paid family leave program and that their policies comply with the law. Specifically, employers should:
- Include paid family leave information in their employee handbook or similar employee materials.
- Display a poster regarding paid family leave coverage in their place of business, similar to the poster required for Workers’ Compensation or disability benefits coverage. The employer’s insurance carrier will supply this poster.
Who is Covered
Employees with a regular work schedule of 20 or more hours a week are eligible after 26 weeks of employment. Employees with a regular work schedule of fewer than 20 hours a week are eligible after 175 days worked. In limited circumstances, employees whose regular work schedules are temporary or seasonal may opt out of paid family leave. When practical, employees should provide 30 days advance notice of their intention to use paid family leave.
Benefits phase in over four years (Table 1). In 2018, employees are eligible for up to eight weeks of paid leave at 50% of their average weekly wage (AWW), up to 50% of the New York State Average Weekly Wage (SAWW). Thereafter, the schedule of benefits is as follows each year: 2019 – 10 weeks at 55% of employee’s AWW, up to 55% of SAWW; 2020 – 10 weeks at 60% of employee’s AWW, up to 60% of SAWW; 2021 – 12 weeks at 67% of employee’s AWW, up to 67% of SAWW.
Finally, dentists should use the following checklist to ensure compliance with the Paid Family Leave Law:
- Employers should contact their disability insurance carrier about obtaining paid family leave coverage.
- Employees are entitled to be reinstated to their same or comparable job upon return from paid family leave.
- Failure to reinstate employees to their same or to a comparable job may leave employers exposed to discrimination and/or retaliation claims.
- Employers must continue employees’ health insurance while they are on paid family leave. Employers may require that employees continue to pay their health insurance premium contributions.
- Employers must ensure that their employees are aware of the paid family leave program and that their organizational policies comply with the law.
- Employers must display a poster regarding paid family leave coverage in their place of business, similar to Workers’ Compensation or disability benefits coverage.
- Call (844) 337-6303 or go to www.ny.gov/paidfamilyleave if you need help setting up your paid family leave program.
This is a critical employer benefit obligation, and there are serious consequences for failing to implement the paid family leave program. Noncompliance can lead to costly claims under Section 120 of the New York State Workers’ Compensation Law. NYSDA wants its members to be prepared and to smoothly transition to model compliance with this new law, just as NYSDA itself has to do as an employer.