New York State Paid Family Leave: Reminders and Updates for 2019

January 1, 2019 begins year-two of New York State’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) program. As with its inaugural year, the program will continue to be available to provide employees in New York State with job-protected, paid leave to bond with a new child, care for a loved one with a serious health condition, or to help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service abroad.  While much of the administration requirements remain the same, employers do have a few things to remain aware of in the new year.

PFL Rates & Benefit Increases for 2019

In September, the New York State (NYS) Department of Financial Services announced that the 2019 PFL rate would be set at .153% of wages, an increase of roughly 21% from 2018. This percentage is applied to an employee’s gross wages each pay period. The maximum annual contribution is set at $107.97. The State PFL website does offer a Payroll Deduction Calculator where this amount can be estimated. Since these deductions are intended to fully-fund the benefit, the same rate and cap will apply to any premium charged by your insurance carrier.

2019 will also have two increases to the applied PFL benefit; the amount of time eligible employees can take is increasing to 10 weeks, and the wage replacement benefit is increasing to 55% of an employee’s average weekly wage. When determining wages, employees should understand that the calculation is based off of the eight weeks prior to the leave request. This amount is also capped at the Statewide Average Weekly Wage, which, for 2019 will be $1,357.11. Therefore, the maximum weekly benefit will be paid at $746.41. The state also offers a Wage Benefit Calculator where employees can estimate their weekly PFL benefit.

PFL Administration in 2019

As PFL is an amendment to the existing NYS Disability Law, it shares many of the same methods for administration. The rule which considers a single period of Disability Leave one that is for the same circumstance and separated by a period of less than 3 months will apply to PFL leave in 2019.  This means that an employee will get the benefit rate and number of weeks in effect on the first day of their leave – even when crossing into 2019. To be eligible for the extra leave in 2019, an employee must have a separate, qualified need, or wait 3 months to file a new claim.

While the original qualifiers for taking PFL leave remain, there is one new eligibility measure that employers should be aware of; organ & tissue donation.  The Living Donor Protection Act of 2018 was signed into law earlier this month, and includes provisions for taking leave under PFL to care for a family member preparing for, or recovering from, organ or tissue donation.  As with any request for PFL, it does not cover leave for the individual them self.

Rose & Kiernan, Inc. will continue to monitor and advise on New York State’s PFL program, including legislation which has passed both houses and applies bereavement as qualified leave under PFL effective 2020. Should you have any questions on this topic, reach out to us today.

This Summary is provided to you for general informational purposes only, does not include references to other legal resources (e.g., supporting regulations, formal or informal opinions) unless specifically noted and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. Please seek qualified and appropriate counsel for further information and/or advice regarding the application of the topics discussed herein to your employee benefit plans.

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