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Get Your HR Manager an Aspirin: Coping with Paid Family Leave in New York

The New York Paid Family Leave Benefits Law (“PFLBL”), which goes into effect January 1, 2018, might create some new headaches for your company’s HR manager, especially during the initial adjustment to the law. The new law entitles employees to partial salary replacement if they take a leave to bond with a child, care for a close relative with a serious health condition, or help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service.

There is some good news, though. New York employers are not required to fund the partial salary replacement benefits that employees will be entitled to receive, and instead can simply obtain insurance from the carrier that is currently providing the legally required disability coverage (for employees’ serious health conditions) and deduct the payments from their employees’ paychecks.

The not-so-good news is that implementing the PFLBL is not going to be easy, and employers need to start getting ready now. In fact, employers should have already taken steps to obtain PFLBL insurance and should be ready to start deducting premiums from employees’ paychecks on July 1, 2017. Alternatively, if an employer chooses to self-insure, they will need to post additional security and comply with other regulatory requirements no later than September 30, 2017. The PFLBL regulations also require employers to post notices informing employees about their rights and obligations under the PFLBL.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, however, will be incorporating information about the PFLBL into the employer’s existing policies and addressing the coordination of PFLBL leave with paid time off and other leaves, including leave under the FMLA. While there are many similarities between the PFLBL and the FMLA, there are some notable differences, which employee manuals will need to address. For example, employees are covered by the PFLBL after only 27 weeks of employment, as opposed to one year. On the other hand, PFLBL does not provide leave to employees for their own serious health conditions as does the FMLA. Given that the leave sections of many personnel manuals are already overly complicated, adding provisions about the PFLBL is not going to make the policies any simpler.

Finally, employers should also continue to provide separate notices when a PFLBL leave overlaps with an FMLA leave to prevent employees from seeking more than 12 weeks of leave in a given year. The PFLBL regulations warn that if an employer fails to provide FMLA notice to an employee taking PFLBL leave, “the employer will be deemed to have permitted the eligible employee to receive family leave benefits without concurrently using the benefits available under FMLA.” And you wondered why your HR manager has a headache?

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.