In 2018, New York state — which was already considered to offer some of the best family-focused benefits in the U.S. — took things a step further by unrolling its New York Paid Family Leave Policy (PFL). Considered to be the most progressive of its kind, the policy is already making a major difference for working parents and was expanded yet further in 2019.
But how exactly can parents take advantage of PFL? Below, we walk you through all things connected to maternity leave, paternity leave, and pregnancy disability in New York.
It's possible that, separate from the state of New York, your employer may offer paid parental leave benefits. Be sure to read all about the maternity leave benefits at your current or potential employer on Fairygodboss and know what benefits are already available to you through your job.
If your employer doesn't have a robust paid leave system in place, the New York Paid Family Leave Policy (PFL) is thankfully here to help. Thanks to the new law, most New Yorkers who work for private employers are eligible for up to 10 weeks of partially paid parental leave a year, as of January 1, 2019. This is an expansion of the policy's original eight-week maximum when the law first went into effect in 2018. And between now and January 1, 2021, the number is set to expand yet further — New Yorkers will then be eligible for up to 12 partially paid weeks.
NYPFL is not just restricted to family leave or parental leave based on pregnancy and childbirth or adoption, either. This law can also be used for medical leave and sick leave to take care of a sick family member or someone in the military and applies to women and men, for both straight and same-sex households. Many New York families have decided to have one parent take leave first followed by other parent start leave when the first parent returns to work. In the event NYPFL is being used for a new child, the leave can’t be taken until after the child is born or adopted, at which point it can be taken in its entirety or only partially if desired. The law also requires all private employers to opt in and include benefits, and the pay is already taxed.
As shown in the graph above, New York employees taking paid family leave in 2019 will get 55% of their average weekly wage, up to a cap of 55% of the current Statewide Average Weekly Wage of $1,357.11. Much like the length of leave available, the percentage you'll be reimbursed is also expanding. In 2020, those taking leave through NYPFL will be eligible for 60% of the current Statewide Average Weekly Wage, and in 2021 that number will be 67 percent.
It's important to note that the percentage of money you'll be receiving is not specific to your personal salary but, again, to the current Statewide Average Weekly Wage. In 2018, this meant that, regardless of a person's own income, the maximum payouts were $652.96 per week. In 2019, the maximum weekly benefit is $746.41. For those who earn less than the state's average, your maximum weekly benefit will be calculated and adjusted based on your salary (e.g. it isn't possible to earn more money than you're accustomed to earning through NYPFL).
Additionally, if your employer has its own paid leave policy and that policy happens to be more generous than 10 weeks at 55% of the state's average weekly income, it's possible you will be paid directly by your employer instead of through the NYPFL insurance carrier. To understand how exactly your company's specific paid leave policy will intersect with NYPFL, it's best to have a conversation with your HR department.
Legally, your employer can't prevent you from taking NYPFL, which is your right to access. If your employer has its own paid leave benefit, you may be able to use both leave policies; however, your employers could require you to concurrently take its leave at the same time as your PFL leave, rather than back-to-back. Have a conversation with your company's HR department to learn how your employer's specific paid leave policy will intersect with the state's PFL plan.
Separate from NYPFL, New York state has a temporary disability insurance program requiring employers to provide short-term disability insurance for employees. What this means is that employers are required to provide at least partial wage and income replacement, for up to 26 weeks, to eligible employees who are temporarily unable to work due to disability. Some of the most common reasons for employees to ask for short-term disability leave in NY are an injury (work-related injury or not), or illness or injury that prevents an employee from being able to participate in full-time work. Pregnancy and childbirth are also covered under the law and extremely common reasons to claim short-term disability in New York.
Since NYPFL was unrolled, many people have had questions about how it relates to and intersects with the Disability Benefits Law (or DBL) in New York. Although there are similarities, the two policies are ultimately different. Both can be used in the event of a pregnancy, however, but you will need to apply for each separately. The main differences between the two policies are:
If you work in New York state and experience an off-the-job injury or illness, coverage for disability must be given to you through your workplace. Your employer offers those benefits and insurance through a disability benefits insurance carrier who is either authorized by the New York State Workers' Compensation Board or by a small business who decides to write their own policies.
If you are unable to work (or lose your job) due to pregnancy or illness or injury, you will be considered "disabled" under the details of your disability policy and be eligible to earn temporary cash benefits. Your expenses related to medical care, however, are up to you to pay. For employed workers, there is a seven-day waiting period for which no benefits are paid. Benefit rights begin on the eighth consecutive day of disability and an employer must supply a worker who has been disabled more than seven days with a Statement of Rights under the Disability Benefits Law, within five days of learning that you have become disabled.
You may or may not have been paying into your disability benefits plan. Employers are allowed, but not required, to collect contributions from its employees to offset the cost of providing benefits. If you have been contributing to your disability insurance, you cannot be expected to contribute more than one-half of one percent of your wages or sixty cents per week.
If an employee has more than one job at the same time, with combined wages of more than $120 per week, the employee may request each employer to adjust the contributions in proportion to the earnings of each employment. The combined contributions may not exceed 60 cents per week. The request should be made as soon as the employee enters a second job.
Starting on the eighth day after you begin your disability you will begin receiving benefits. The first seven days of disability are considered a waiting period where you will not receive your benefits. You may receive the benefits after this period assuming you filed your form DB-450 in a timely fashion. Thereafter, you receive benefit payments every two weeks.
You can get paid for the waiting period, however, if your disability exceeds three consecutive weeks.
The vast majority of private-sector employees are covered in New York state. There is no employer size cut-off as there is under the federal laws and FMLA. There are also far more lenient qualification rules when it comes to how long you must have worked at a "covered" employer.
For example, if you've worked at least four consecutive weeks as an employee for a NY state private employer, you meet the tenure requirements. Even if you've switched jobs from one "covered" employer to another "covered" employer — you start enjoying the benefits to short-term disability laws from the first day at your second "covered" employer.
So who is a covered employer? There is an itemized list of exempted employers on the New York state disability website (e.g. priests, sole proprietors, farm workers, rabbis, etc) but the fact that the exceptions are so clearly laid out means that it's very likely most private sector employees are covered.
Claims for disability payments must be requested via a form your employer calls a DB-450 form. Instructions regarding how to file a claim is available here.
Some fine print: you may not preemptively file a claim for disability because you anticipate you will not be able to work due to childbirth or pregnancy conditions.
You may not file a claim for disability payments until you are actually unable to work and there is also a deadline to file within 30 days of the time you are unable to work. The claim form requires a medical provider provide a diagnosis and estimates a date upon which you will once again be able to work.
Since this is a work-disability payment, the duration of your benefits depends on when your medical provider's assessment of how long you will not be able to work. That said, the typical post-birth disability period that is prescribed is 6 weeks for a normal delivery and 8 weeks for a C-section birth. The maximum benefit anyone can receive under NY state disability benefits is 26 weeks in any 52 week period.
In New York State, maternity leave is covered under FMLA and the New York State Maternity Leave Law (PFLL). FMLA allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave after welcoming a new child through childbirth, adoption, or foster care. Under the NYPFL, as discussed above, you may be eligible for up to 10 weeks of partially paid leave.
You can not take PFLL and FMLA leave — a federal law that allows for paid family medical leave — at the same time. But if you are eligible for FMLA after taking PFLL leave, you may take it once you used up your time.
Disclaimer: We tried very hard to summarize what the high level points we think you should know if you're a pregnant, working woman in New York. However we're not attorneys and we don't claim to have covered every single detail, so please check New York's State's website for more information and any updates, please see NY state's website.