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Big changes are coming to New York's FMLA

In case you haven't heard, if you work for one of the many private employers in New York's boroughs, you could be paid at least a portion of your wages while you are out on family leave. Earlier in 2017, legislators passed a law that requires private employers (public employers have the option to opt in) to begin offering employees this opportunity beginning on Jan. 1, 2018.

Your employer must guarantee that you will have your job (or a comparable one) when you return from Paid Family Leave, and you can continue to make use of your health insurance. Of course, you will need to continue paying your portion of the premiums while you are not working. So, how does this new program work? Keep reading.

Who meets the eligibility requirements?

In addition to working for a private employer, you must meet the following eligibility requirements in order to take advantage of this new plan:

  • If you work part time, your schedule must be regular and you must have worked at least 175 days for your employer. Those days don't have to be consecutive for you to qualify.
  • If you work full time and have a regular schedule, as long as you work more than 20 hours in a work week, you only have to work for 26 consecutive weeks in order to qualify.
  • You may qualify to take eight weeks of PFL if you decide to take time to be with your newborn, but only after the birth.
  • You may take PFL if your spouse, child, parent or partner receives deployment orders as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Under certain circumstances, you may qualify for PFL if you need to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Only certain relatives apply, so you may want to make sure that you qualify before applying for PFL.

Your eligibility is not contingent upon your immigration or citizenship status.

What benefits will you receive?

The state plans to phase in the program over the next four years beginning Jan. 1, 2018. During 2018, you may take eight weeks of PFL at 50 percent of your pay up to a maximum of $652.96 per week. The maximum comes from the average weekly wage here in New York. As the years progress, you will be entitled to additional weeks and additional pay through 2021. At that point, the program will be fully implemented.

Who pays for the program?

You will notice a payroll deduction each pay period that represents no more than 0.126 percent of your weekly income. A cap for the amount deducted exists, and the program bases it on the average weekly wage here in New York of $1,305.92. The payroll contribution occurs if you fall into the part-time and full-time eligibility requirements above. Only if you do not meet those thresholds can you opt out of the program.

What if your employer denies your application for PFL?

If you complete all of the required forms and provide the appropriate evidence indicating that you qualify to take PFL, but your employer denies your request, you can find support and assistance to obtain the benefits you need. Questions are bound to come up regarding PFL and FMLA as you go through the application process and you don't have to try to answer those questions alone.

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