New York State Paid Family Leave Begins January 1, 2018

Hotel Voice — October 31, 2017

Beginning January 1, 2018 a new law takes effect in New York State that provides paid family leave!

This law is the direct result of strong lobbying efforts by our union and others and it will beneficially impact all Hotel Trades Council members employed in New York State. The important role the union had in bringing about the paid parental leave law was recognized by Governor Cuomo earlier this year when he signed the state budget in which it was included.

As we reported in the Summer 2016 edition of the Hotel Voice magazine, the paid family leave program will be funded entirely through a minuscule payroll deduction on employees. It will cost businesses—both big and small—absolutely nothing, but it will make a huge beneficial difference throughout the state for working families.

“Bonding with a new child or caring for a seriously ill family member should not cost employees their entire savings or their job,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo, when signing last year’s budget. To his great credit, Cuomo worked closely with unions in advocating for paid family leave, saying it was a good policy for employers and employees alike.

“New York State’s paid family leave program is a benefit for both workers and employers,” Cuomo said at the signing. “This is a program that was long overdue.”

The paid family leave program (PFL) will be phased in, eventually allowing workers to take up to 12 weeks paid time off from the job to care for newborn or newly adopted children. It will also allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off from work to care for seriously ill children, spouses, domestic partners, parents, grandchildren, grandparents, and siblings or parents of spouses or domestic partners. PFL will also help military families in their time of need. Workers will be able to use the program to address certain legal, financial and childcare issues related to military service of a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent. Employees taking family leave must be restored to the same or comparable position previously held by the employee prior to taking the leave. Employees will be eligible for the program after having worked six months for an employer.

The provision will apply to union workers, with the only exceptions being any whose contract has a more generous paid family leave provision. Like employees covered by the federal law called the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers under New York State’s Paid Family Leave Law must maintain an employee’s existing health plan during the employee’s paid leave under New York State’s Paid Family Leave Law.

Paid family leave in New York will be instituted in steps. It begins this coming January 1, (2018) at 50% of an employee’s average weekly pay and capped at 50% of the statewide average weekly wage. It will be fully implemented in 2021 at 67% of an employee’s average weekly wage, capped to 67% of the statewide average weekly wage.

We should add that PFL benefits will be tax free. On January 1, 2018 eligible employees will be able to take up to eight weeks of paid family leave. On January 1, 2019 they will be able to take up to 10 weeks. On January 1, 2021 they will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid family leave.

The weekly PFL benefit will be financed solely through employee payroll deductions. These deductions actually began on June 1 of this year (2017) at 45 cents per week. In subsequent years New York’s Superintendent of Financial Services will determine the amount of employee contributions based on the cost per worker of providing PFL through the state insurance fund.

Paid family leave programs similar to the one adopted in last year’s New York State budget have proven to be successful in several other states, substantially benefiting workers and businesses at minimal cost to both.

“It’s great news to see that paid family leave is about to become a reality in New York State,” HTC President Peter Ward said. “Working families can add this to programs like workers compensation, unemployment insurance and others that were won through the determined efforts of labor unions like our own.”

Peter Ward was invited by Governor Cuomo to be present for the signing of the 2016 New York State budget that included the Paid Family Leave program that begins January 1, 2018. Also present are New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez and NYS AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento.