Men in New York took advantage of the state’s recently added paid family leave law in record numbers, according to a state agency overseeing worker compensation issues.
In 2018, the first year of the four-year-long phase-in for the law, more than 26,000 fathers in the Empire State took leave within the first 12 months of their child’s birth, adoption or foster placement. Compared to the first year of similar laws that have gone into effect in other states, New York had the highest overall participation rate and the highest percentage of men who used the benefit to bond with their children, according to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board.
In its first year, the state paid family leave law covered more than 8.5 million working New Yorkers, and more than 128,000 people used the benefit.
“NY paid family leave has not only alleviated my financial fears and hardships but has allowed me to give my daughter the full care she deserves when she needs me the most,” said Brian W. of Williamstown, in a quote provided by the workers’ comp board. “I cannot say thank you enough for this life-changing program.”
In 2019, the law allows working New Yorkers to take off up to 10 weeks, without fear of losing their job, while receiving 55 percent of their average weekly wage, up to 55 percent of the Statewide Average Weekly Wage. Starting this January, the benefits increase to 60 percent of their average weekly wage with a maximum weekly benefit of $840.70. The phase-in ends in 2021 when employees will be eligible to take up to 12 weeks off at 67 percent of their average weekly wage, up to a cap of 67 percent of the Statewide Average Weekly Wage.
When New York’s paid family leave law first went into effect in 2018, only three other U.S. states had similar programs. The number has grown:
- New York, New Jersey, California, Rhode Island, and Washington have laws in effect
- Washington, D.C., has laws taking effect in 2020
- Connecticut starts in 2021
- Oregon begins in 2023
At least 21 states have considered paid family leave laws in the past two years, according to the Society for Human Resources Management, and the movement for federal legislation has been growing. Dove Men+Care, a longtime partner of City Dads Group, has been focused on the issue for the past year, calling for people to sign a pledge for paid paternity leave and offering grants to fathers who don’t have paid paternity leave as an available option.
“Paid family leave shouldn’t be a luxury given to precious few! I am grateful to live in NY state,” said Tyler M. of Queens in a quote provided by the NY workers’ comp board.
Caring for and bonding with a new child isn’t the only life-changing event New York’s paid family leave law covers. It also provides paid time off and job protection for workers when a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent is called to active military service abroad or a family member needs care because of a serious health condition. Employees taking the time off are ensured they will have the same job (or a comparable one) when they return to work and also get to keep their health insurance while on leave, on the same terms as if they continued working.
Most employees who work in New York State for private employers are eligible to take paid family leave. Public employees may be covered if their employers opt-in to provide the benefit. Covered employees who work a regular schedule of 20 hours or more per week are eligible after 26 consecutive weeks of work with the same employer. Employees who work a regular schedule of fewer than 20 hours per week are eligible after working for their employer for 175 days, which do not have to be consecutive. Citizenship and immigration status are never factors in eligibility.
New York Paid Family Leave is insurance that is fully funded by employees through payroll deductions. The contribution rate is set each year by the state’s Department of Financial Services to match the cost of coverage. In 2020, the contribution will be 0.270% of an employee’s gross wages each pay period. The maximum annual contribution is $196.72.
More information on New York Paid Family Leave is available at https://paidfamilyleave.ny.gov/.