As the U.S. continues to rank last among developed nations for paid parental leave policy, states such as New York, New Jersey, California and Rhode Island are taking matters under their own jurisdiction.
The New York Paid Family Leave Policy (PFL) has been offered since January 2018; the policy has been recognized as the most progressive of its kind in the U.S. The policy has a benefits phase plan in place from 2018-2021.
First, let’s recap the highlights of the policy. Paid Family Leave (PFL) is a mandatory benefit that provides paid time off to private employees to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill family member or assist loved ones when a family member is deployed abroad on active military service — all while benefiting from job protection. PFL was implemented as a rider to the Disability Benefits Leave (DBL or statutory short-term disability) policy.
As we approach the second year of implementation I spoke with Mr. Eric Williams, Campaign Director, for the New York Paid Family Leave Coalition, for a review of 2018 and what’s in store for the second round of benefit expansion taking place on January 1, 2019.
Mr. Williams and his team enthusiastically are continuing with public education and outreach programs to make people aware that PFL exits and is available.
Below is a chart from the Shelter Point website, with the expected rollout of the policy.
Benefit Stage Effective Date*
Maximum Length of Paid Leave**
Payable % of Employee’s Average Weekly Wage (AWW)
To the Maximum % of NY Average Weekly Wage (NY AWW)
$ Max based on current NY AWW of $1,305.92***
This chart is for leave taken in weekly increments. Leave taken in daily increments is based on the average number of days worked per week during the last 8 weeks before taking leave.
Presently, PFL provides eligible private employees up to 8 weeks of paid leave at 50% of their Average Weekly Wage (AWW), capped at 50% of the New York State Average Weekly Wage (NYAWW). The benefit amount and duration are scheduled to gradually increase until 2021 when eligible employees will receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave at 67% of their AWW, capped at 67% of the NYAWW. PFL also provides job protection and guarantees benefits while out on leave. PFL is funded by employees through payroll contributions.
Mr. Williams shared, “As of January 1, 2019, the number of PFL weeks will increase from 8 to 10 with 55% of weekly wage paid out at a cap of $746.41 per week.” he stated.
Looking ahead to 2019, each parent will be entitled to 10 weeks each, or 20 weeks total. Each parent does not have to take their 10 weeks consecutively and may break-up the time in as little as a one-day increment. The rationale is to offset child care costs. However, the weeks must be taken during the first year of a baby’s life and cannot be accrued past one year from the date of taking the first PFL day.
PFL scenario for 2019: Both parents may plan to spend the first two weeks at home together concurrently. After two weeks the parents may decide that the Father will go back to work and the mother will remain home with the baby for another 8 weeks for a total of 10 successive weeks. At week 10, when the mother has maximized her PFL, the Father could take his remaining 8 weeks to be at home.
During the first year of a child’s life up to 4.6 months of PFL can be taken if both parents schedule their time successively and not concurrently. 10 weeks + 10 weeks = 20 weeks or 4.6 months.
In comparison, with what has been available was DBLs that came with job protection and a small weekly salary of $170/week; this wage level has not changed since the 1980s. This is where physical recovery from pregnancy and childbirth is classified under current government vocabulary as it is considered “a disability.” The amount paid out under PFL is much higher and will increase based on wage growth and economic inflation factors. An important note is that a new mother cannot exceed 26 weeks of combined PFL and DBL in a 52-week period.
The New York State and the PFL campaign team have utilized a variety of channels to reach expecting mothers and their families in the early stages of pregnancy through subway and public outreach campaigns, exhibiting at parenting and baby expos and by targeting support and service communities.
“At one recent parent and baby expo we had non-stop lines of people, all day long, wanting to know how does the PFL apply to their specific, life situation? We’ve found that people have needed 1-on-1 conversations to reassure them they are entitled to the PFL benefits as they don’t believe it is available to all New Yorkers,” said Mr. Williams. “At this stage, being that PFL is something relatively new to the U.S., and even though it has been implemented on a state level, people don’t believe it is legitimate. Most people think that this type of policy would only be on a federal level,” he added.
PFL has been connecting with birth professionals, educators, doulas, midwives, OBGYNs and even pediatricians working in the maternity and birth community to help get the word out.
“Most of the PFL applicants have been for birth, fostering or adoption.” Mr. William remarked, “A consistent challenge we face is that most people apply for PFL benefits in the third trimester, or later. Preparing a post-birth plan is typically an afterthought for most Americans.”
There is a required 30-day employer notice for “foreseeable leave.” If notification is delayed due to an unforeseen event such as a premature birth, applicants must make notification as soon as practical. Families are encouraged to apply for PFL benefits early to ensure there is adequate time for processing and approval. Communicate with your employer 30-days in advance of the estimated due date (EDD). There is a little flexibility in the law as an EDD, is just that, an estimate with early/late labor understood.
If your PFL request is denied by your employer or insurance carrier, or if your employment is terminated because of requesting or taking PFL there is a formal complaint mechanism to file a report.
The U.S. still ranks last in the world, keeping company with Papua New Guinea and Oman that does not guarantee paid maternity leave. Progressive states like New York are recognizing important social needs, taking them under their purview and addressing them. Does PFL seem too good to be true? Most people think so but be assured it is a ratified and implemented policy. Make it a point to become familiar with it because it could change you and your baby’s life.
Mr. Williams recommends, as a first step, to find out information to go on the PaidFamilyLeave.ny.gov website as it is very comprehensive, easy to navigate, has a comprehensive FAQ section, and answers benefit, eligibility, application and participation questions. Also available is the PFL Help Line, 844-337-6303, (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., ET, Monday – Friday) where you can speak with a representative and request translation services in English, Haitian Creole, Italian, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Russian, and Spanish.
Shelter Point website.
New York State Paid Family Leave website.
Interview with Eric Williams, Campaign Director, Family Leave Policy
Valerie Lynn, of Post-Pregnancy Wellness Company, is an expert Traditional Feminine Healthcare, specializing in Post-Pregnancy Recovery, author of The Mommy Plan, Restoring Your Post-Pregnancy Body, Using Women’s Traditional Wisdom and upcoming cookbook- Healing Meals: Simple Recipes for New Moms. As a former strategic business consultant, Valerie lived in Japan, Malaysia, U.K., Australia and Indonesia. Her individual coaching practice in New York City supports expecting mothers and families through by creating individualized The Post-Baby Blueprint: 6-Week & Beyond Post-Baby Recovery & Recuperation Plan incorporating specific postnatal nutritional needs, personal care, gentle exercise and maternal mental health “check-ins.”. Her corporate program, Optimizing Maternity Leave: A Roadmap to Post-Pregnancy Recovery, complements a long maternity leave and has been offered as a Lunch & Learn or Wellness program.