On January 1, 2019, the length of paid leave and amount of weekly benefits under the New York Paid Family Leave Act (“NY PFL”) are scheduled to increase, the first of three yearly increases. The NY PFL, which took effect earlier this year, allows employees to collect up to a maximum of eight weeks of benefits within a 52-consecutive week period. In 2018, employees are eligible to earn 50% of their average weekly salary, up to a cap set at 50% of the state average weekly wage. Currently, the NY PFL benefits has been calculated based on the 2016 New York State average weekly wage, which is $1,305.92 per week. Thus, the maximum benefit amount in 2018 is $652.96 per week.

Beginning on or after January 1, 2019, leaves of absence taken under the NY PFL will increase to a maximum of 10 weeks of benefits within a 52-consecutive week period. The benefit amount will also increase to 55% of an employee’s average weekly salary, up to a cap set at 55% of the state average weekly wage. In 2019, the NY PFL benefits will be calculated based on the 2017 New York State average weekly wage, which is $1,357.11. The new maximum weekly benefit in 2019 will be $746.41 per week.

An employee’s payroll contribution toward NY PFL is also scheduled to increase beginning on January 1, 2019. The deduction amount will increase to 0.153% of an employee’s weekly salary, at an annual contribution amount less than the cap of $107.97. This is an increase from the 2018 deduction amounts, which were 0.126% of an employee’s weekly salary, with an annual contribution cap of $85.56.

As a reminder, beginning on January 1, 2020, the maximum length of leave will stay at 10 weeks, but the benefits will be calculated based on 60% of an employee’s average weekly wage, up to a cap set at 60% of the state average weekly wage. On January 1, 2021, the last of the annual increases will be set. Then, the maximum length of leave will increase to 12 weeks in a 52-consecutive week period and benefits will be payable based on 67% of an employee’s average weekly wage, up to a cap set at 67% of the state average weekly wage.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and first daughter Ivanka Trump have teamed up to develop a paid parental leave program in the United States.  While the plan is in its infancy, Senator Rubio reportedly envisions a plan similar to a proposal from the Independent Women’s Forum, calling for a parental leave program funded by new parents’ future Social Security benefits.  Under that proposal, parents could receive up to 12 weeks of benefits to take paid leave at any time in the first year of their new child’s life in exchange for what the Independent Women’s Forum hopes would be six weeks of Social Security benefits in the future.

The Rubio-Ivanka proposal is not without criticism.  Some conservative commentators say the plan would unfairly burden Social Security’s limited resources.  Further, because the Rubio-Ivanka plan would be available regardless of the size of a new parent’s employer, the leave would not be protected under the FMLA if the parent’s employer does not have 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius.  Liberal critics believe that the proposal will negatively affect women, who generally receive less Social Security benefits than men for reasons of gender-related pay inequity.

While paid family leave is a concept with bipartisan support, proponents disagree about how to fund such a program.  The president’s recent budget plan, which calls for six weeks of family leave paid for by unemployment insurance, appears to be at odds with the Ivanka-Rubio idea.   The Democrat-sponsored Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (the FAMILY Act) would provide up to 12 weeks of income through a payroll tax on employers and employees.  Employers should continue to monitor discussions and developments in this rapidly changing area.

By:  Anna A. Cohen and Nancy L. Gunzenhauser

A number of states and localities will require paid sick and bereavement leave, as well as caregiver leave benefits in 2014.

Paid Sick Leave

New York City, Jersey City, New Jersey and Portland, Oregon will require employers, with some exceptions, to provide paid sick leave in 2014.  Portland’s law becomes effective on January 1, 2014, Jersey City’s law becomes effective on January 24, 2014, and New York City’s law becomes effective April 1, 2014.  As we previously reported, these cities join San Francisco, California, Seattle, Washington, the District of California and Connecticut in requiring paid sick leave.

Bereavement Leave

Oregon’s Family Leave Act (OFLA) will require employers to provide bereavement leave, effective January 1, 2014.  The first law of its kind, employers with 25 or more employees will be required to provide eligible employees with two weeks of leave per death of a family member (defined as spouse, same-sex domestic partner, child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, or the same relations of an employee’s same-sex domestic partner or spouse), up to a maximum of 12 weeks in a 12-month period.  Leave may be taken to make arrangements necessitated by the death, to attend the funeral or memorial service, or to grieve.

Caregiver Leave

Rhode Island will become the third state to permit employees to collect temporary disability benefits for caregiver leave.  California and New Jersey are the only other states that permit employees who are not disabled to collect state sponsored short-term disability. Rhode Island’s Temporary Caregiver Insurance law, effective January 1, 2014, will apply to all employers, regardless of size, and provides employees with up to four weeks of job-protected leave per year to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent, or to bond with a newborn child, newly adopted child or new foster-care child.

Bottom line

Employers that already provide leave that is at least as generous as what is required under these new laws will not be required to provide additional paid leave.  Most companies, however, will need to implement or amend existing paid leave and other policies to ensure compliance with the new laws.