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New York State Paid Family Leave Program Takes Effect

Occupational injuries often warrant time off from work to recover. In 2015, the median number of days injured workers spent away from work came out to eight. But what if an employee needs to recover from childbirth or take care of an ailing family member? Now, New York State has ensured those employees will be provided for, thanks to the new paid family leave program, launched January 1, 2018.

New York State employees will now be able to take time off from work to care for their newborn, adopted, or foster child, as well as a sick parent or a family member who is deploying for military service, without completely sacrificing their paycheck. Employees are allowed to take up to eight weeks of paid leave in 2018. The wage displacement for this year is intended to cover 50% of an employee’s salary, but this percentage will increase each year until 2022, when 67% of an employee’s wages will be covered (and they can take a possible 12 weeks off from work). However, these payments are capped at the state average, which is $652.96 per week.

Full-time employees are eligible for the program as long as they work 20 hours per week for 26 straight weeks. Part-time employees are also eligible, even if they work less than 20 hours a week, after 175 work days. Workers must notify their employer at least 30 days prior to leave, unless it’s an emergency situation, to take advantage of the program. The majority of employers are required to participate in the program unless they obtain a waiver; some workers can obtain a waiver to opt out if they do not meet eligibility regulations.

The program is funded by payroll deductions from employees themselves, but no one will see a big change in their take-home pay. Deductions for 2018 come out to 0.126% of weekly wages.

This is all excellent news for New York employees. Since postpartum depression occurs in nearly 15% of births, for new parents, there are a lot of benefits to programs like these, including reduced rates of postpartum depression and healthier infants overall, according to advocacy groups and policymakers. Parents will also have more time to bond with their children, and for working moms who choose to breastfeed, they may receive more time to do so without having to pump or switch to formula. Since 26.8% of survey respondents in 2015 said they expressed breast milk five to 15 times per week, this could make a big impact on mothers who want to give their children every possible physical and mental advantage. Plus, paid family leave gives new dads the opportunity to stay home with their kids — a luxury many fathers don’t often receive.

The program may actually be a positive for employers, too. Those who are able to take advantage of paid family leave are more likely to have increased job satisfaction. In an age when company loyalty is hard to come by, this can actually result in reduced turnover and its associated costs. That said, the program does have its opponents who say that it could present harm to small businesses, in particular. Although these businesses don’t have to pay for the program directly, the program would theoretically allow a new dad to take every Friday off for 40 weeks. This could cause an administrative burden for employers, but those against the program are likely in the minority.

Upon the announcement of the program’s launch, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “Our strongest-in-the-nation paid family leave policy will ensure that no one has to choose between losing a job and missing the birth of a child or being able to spend time with a loved one in their final days.”