4 things you need to know about New York’s paid family leave program

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- New York State’s new paid family leave law is now in effect. New York becomes only the fourth state in the nation to have a program like it.

This year employees of most private companies will be able to take eight weeks of paid time off to take care of a newborn, a sick relative or if a military family member is deployed.

Employees will only get 50 percent of the their weekly salary and it’s capped at the state average. The program will be phased in over the next four years, eventually employees will be able to get 12 weeks of paid time off at 67 percent of their weekly wage.

Who pays for the program?

“The employees themselves are paying for it,” said Kevin Wicka, an employment attorney with the Tarantino Law Firm in Buffalo.

Wicka told News 4 that employees of most private companies should’ve started seeing deductions from their paychecks over the past six months.

It’s based on a percentage of their weekly salary, capped at the state average.

The most anyone will have deducted is a $1.64 per week.

“A little more than 85 dollars per year per employee,” said Wicka. “The concern is long-term whether there’s going to be enough money to fund this based on those deductions.”

Who can opt out?

Employees can get a waiver to be exempt if they won’t work long enough to qualify.

Part time workers are only eligible after working 175 days in a position. Full time workers have to clock 26 consecutive weeks.

Some service workers are ineligible for the program. Click here for more details on who qualifies.

How do you apply for Paid Family Leave?

“They get the forms through their employer and the forms are found on the NYS Workers Compensation Board website,” said Wicka.

Once the employee fills out the form, it’s returned to the employer who also has to complete a portion of it.

After three days, the form goes back to the employee who submits it to the company’s insurance carrier. The carrier has 18 days to accept or deny the application.

Can PFL be used with FMLA?

“The employer can make the employee take them concurrently,” said Wicka.

In some cases, however, both cannot be used.

“New York paid family medical leave does not apply if the employee has their own medical condition, it’s only to help an immediate family member,” explained Wicka.

FMLA also doesn’t apply to most companies with fewer than 50 employees but paid family leave does.

Under paid family leave, employers must also hold their employees position for them. Wicka told News 4 one of the big concerns for small business owners is how to fill that position until the employee on leave can return.

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