When I was pregnant with my first child, I was working full time and remember hoarding all my vacation days so I could take as much time off as possible when my daughter was born. While I was fortunate to receive several weeks of paid leave, I managed to take 16 weeks off before I headed back to my job. The second time around, I only took off 12 weeks with that same vacation hoarding strategy in my back pocket. Back then, I considered myself lucky because I had the time to really bond with my babies before heading back to work. I also had an extremely understanding boss who gave me permission to telecommute – something that was pretty unheard of at the time. During my maternity leave, I was the only person in my family who took a significant amount of time off. My husband did take a few days for labor and delivery but after that, he was back in the office while I stayed home on with our children.
Fast forward a few decades and times truly have changed for the better. Paid Family Leave has been expanded throughout the state of New York. Starting January 1, 2018, part time and full time employees who work at small and large businesses will be given the opportunity to take paid family leave. The new and improved New York State Paid Family Leave benefit provides job-protected, paid time off so an employee can:
- Bond with a newly born, adopted, or fostered child
- Care for a family member with a serious health condition
- Assist loved ones when a family member is deployed abroad on active military service
What’s great about this new benefit is that it’s not just for new moms. Dads and family caregivers can now take time off to bond with an infant or with an ailing family member.
As a small business owner, I was concerned about what the cost was going to be for me now that all employers are responsible for offering this benefit to their team members – whether they are part time or full time workers. It turns out that Paid Family Leave benefits are paid by insurance and employees pay for the premium through a small amount deducted from their paycheck each payroll cycle, which means there’s no additional cost to the employer. There are eligibility requirements – an employee who regularly works 20 or more hours a week is eligible to take Paid Family Leave after working 26 consecutive weeks, and someone who regularly works less than 20 hours a week becomes eligible after working 175 days – and employees who will never meet this criteria (a full-time seasonal worker, for example) will have the option to opt out.
Here are some more details about the benefit for employees, working parents and small business owners like me:
- Eligible employees do not need to do anything until they are ready to take time off.
- Employers must get Paid Family Leave coverage for employees.
- Employees have job protection, ensuring they can return to the same job (or a comparable one) when they return from Paid Family Leave.
- Employees can keep their health insurance while on leave. Employees who contribute to the cost of their health insurance must continue to pay their portion of the premium cost while on leave.
- Employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against employees for requesting or taking Paid Family Leave.
I have to say while I am at a different stage of my life and am approaching those empty nest years, it’s comforting to know that the Paid Family Leave benefit provides job protection for those of us going through difficult times that may require us to care for our loved ones. I guess it’s yet another reason why I Love New York!
For more information, visit the New York Paid Family Leave website.