Come January 1, 2018, employees in California and New York will enjoy new and expanded rights to time off work, with pay, to attend to certain family needs.  New York, whose law was enacted in 2016 (see our prior post here), boasts its law as being the nation’s “strongest and most comprehensive” on paid family leave.    This new law provides job-protected, paid leave to bond with a new child (whether biological, adopted, or foster), care for a loved one with a serious health condition, or address family matters arising from another family member’s call to active military service.  In its first year, the law provides employees with approximately 50% of their average weekly wage for up to 8 weeks; this amount will increase annually until 2021, when it reaches the maximum benefit level of approximately 67% of an employee’s average weekly wage for up to 12 weeks.  The law also requires employers to continue health insurance while an employee is on leave, in the same manner which this health coverage is paid during the employee’s regular employment.  This means that employers can require employees to continue to pay their health insurance premiums while on leave.  The paid family leave program will be funded through an add-on to existing state-mandated employer disability insurance policies.  Employers may choose to pay the additional insurance premiums or deduct the cost from each employee’s payroll.  (Some employers may have begun making these deductions as early as July 1, 2017).  Of note, this law does not just apply to employers located in New York State.  Any employer with employees working in New York for 30 or more days in a calendar year must have paid family leave insurance coverage. 

In California (the first state to enact a paid family leave law 15 years ago), the new law signed by the Governor in April 2016 increases the maximum payments under the policy from 55% of an employee’s annual wages to between 60-70%, depending on annual income.  The bill also initially included a provision increasing the paid leave period beyond the current 6 weeks, but this provision was removed before enactment.  Unlike New York’s paid family leave law, California’s law does not provide job protection.  However, other California state laws, such as the California Family Rights Act, do provide job protection for similar types of leave, and even additional periods of unpaid time off.

Notably, for applicable employers and employees, the paid leave provided under these state laws may also run concurrently with leave available to an employee under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for circumstances similar to those provided under these two state paid family leaves laws.