New Paid Family Leave Mandates in CA, SF and NY

The States of California and New York and the City and County of San Francisco have all passed new mandates regarding paid family leave. The California and San Francisco laws expand on a program California has had in place for years.

California: California’s Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill that increases paid family leave benefits. Historically, California’s paid family leave (PFL) has provided a benefit of 55 percent of wages (up to a maximum weekly benefit of $1,129 in 2016) for up to six weeks. The new law will provide a benefit to people earning close to minimum wage of 70 percent of their wages, while employees with pay up to $108,000 a year will get 60 percent of pay. The new benefits will be effective in 2018.

California’s PFL program is funded through mandatory contributions by employees and is administered by the State Employment Development Department. The improved benefits will require employees to pay more into the fund. About 90 percent of claims filed under the PFL program have been for parental leave and about 10 percent for care of seriously ill family members.

San Francisco: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved a mandate that businesses in San Francisco give new parents fully paid time off. As of the date of this blog posting, the Board needs to vote on it a second time; Mayor Edwin Lee has indicated he will sign the ordinance.

The ordinance has staggered effective dates depending on employer size, with size counted including employees outside of San Francisco. Employers with 20 or more employees anywhere will be required to provide fully-paid parental leave to employees in San Francisco.

Employers can require employees to sign a form agreeing to reimburse the employer for the full benefit amount if the employee voluntarily terminates employment within 90 days after the end of the leave. Of course, recovering those amounts may be difficult.

Employers will be required to pay the amount not covered by California’s PFL program, which currently reimburses 55 percent of pay, but will be increasing.

New York: Effective January 1, 2018, the State of New York will join California, New Jersey and Rhode Island as states mandating paid family leave. New York’s leave, at 12 weeks, will be the most generous. California and New Jersey provide six weeks and Rhode Island provides three weeks. Washington, D.C. has not yet implemented its paid family leave program. When it does, it will provide 16 weeks.

New York employers may provide family leave benefits for employees taking intermittent leave or leave of less than a full workweek in increments of one full day. The new law requires employers to reinstate employees who take paid family leave to the position held immediately prior to taking leave, or to a comparable position with comparable benefits. Employers will be required to maintain any existing health benefits during the paid family leave on the same basis as active employees. The law also protects employees against the loss of any benefits accrued prior to the family leave.

Employees will be entitled to paid family leave after working 26 consecutive weeks for an employer in New York. Paid family leave can be taken for any of the following reasons:

  1. To provide physical or psychological care for the serious health condition of a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, step-parent, former legal guardian, parent-in-law, sibling, grandchild or grandparent.
  2. To bond with a newborn child, a newly adopted child or a new foster child within 12 months after the birth, adoption or placement.
  3. To address certain exigent needs when a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent of the employee is called to active military service.

The benefits will be phased in and start at 8 weeks of benefits, increase to 10 weeks in 2019 and 12 weeks in 2021. Similarly, the amount will begin at 50 percent, increase to 55 percent in 2019, 60 percent in 2020 and 67 percent in 2021.

About John Garner

John Garner has over thirty five years of experience in employee benefits. He specializes in compliance, health care reform, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). He helps clients with life, health, and disability benefits, cost containment, flexible benefits, and claim consulting.

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