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New York Sets the Bar High, Enacting the Nation’s Most Comprehensive Family Leave Program

As President Obama recently tweeted, “Nobody should have to choose between losing a paycheck & caring for their family.” That was the message New York sent to the nation on April 4, 2016 when it became the first state to provide employees up to 12 weeks of partially-paid family leave. To date, only three other states (California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey) provide any amount of paid family leave, with New York’s latest enactment being the most comprehensive.

Under New York’s program, employees who have worked for their employer for at least six months will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of partially-paid leave to care for newborn children, seriously ill family members, or to relieve financial pressures when a family member is called to active military service. Beginning in 2018, employees will receive eight weeks per year at 50 percent of their average weekly wage, to be increased to 12 weeks per year at 67 percent of their average weekly wage (capped based upon the statewide average) by 2021.

New York’s program will also be funded entirely through small payroll deductions (around one dollar per week), costing employers nothing to provide this important benefit to their employees. Indeed, programs like paid family leave have been shown to increase employee morale while providing enumerable benefits to babies, new parents, and families.

In contrast, California’s paid family leave program (arguably the second most comprehensive) only provides employees with up to six weeks of family leave per year at 55 percent of their wages.

Always a trendsetter, the hope is that other states will follow New York’s lead. San Francisco has already followed suit, becoming the nation’s first city to approve six weeks of fully paid leave for new parents. Beginning in 2017, San Francisco employers of 50 or more employees will be required to make up the 45 percent differential from California’s program so its employees receive 100 percent of their wages. Further, Governor Jerry Brown is soon expected to sign a bill increasing the amount offered under California’s program.

Sadly, the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee paid family leave for its employees. New York, California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, we applaud you for paving the way for other states to take action.

For more information about your right to paid family leave, and a free consultation, please call us at (619) 342-8000.