New Year’s Resolution #2: New Year, New Leave Policies – Don’t Get Left Behind on Compliance!
As we count down to the fast-approaching New Year, one of the most significant changes taking place for employers in New York is the implementation of the New York Paid Family Leave law, which takes effect on January 1, 2018. We previously posted a comprehensive guide for employers on the steps they need to take in advance of January 1st to prepare for the implementation of Paid Family Leave, and for those who have not yet tackled this item, it is not too late!
New York Paid Family Leave
New York’s Paid Family Leave law will be phased in over four years, from 2018 to 2022. When fully implemented, the law will allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid family leave to:
- care for a family member (including a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, spouse or domestic partner) with a serious health condition;
- bond with the employee’s newborn or newly-placed adoptive or foster child during the first 12 months following birth or placement; or
- address any qualifying exigency relating to a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent who is serving on active military duty.
The law is essentially structured as an additional insurance policy that employers will now be required to provide to employees. In many cases, this policy will be a rider to an employer’s existing disability insurance policy. The law is funded through employee contributions made via payroll deductions at the rate of 0.126% of an employee’s wages, up to an annual maximum of $85.56.
For those employers who have not yet focused in on their compliance obligations, and to prepare for implementation as we enter the New Year, we have put together a brief checklist of steps employers should take now to be ready come January 1st:
- Employers should immediately contact their insurance carriers to arrange for Paid Family Leave coverage.
- If you aren’t already deducting PFL contributions, employers should coordinate with their payroll departments and/or payroll vendors to arrange for deductions to be made beginning on January 1.
- Employers must update their written materials including their employee handbook and/or other written guidance to include necessary information about Paid Family Leave and to integrate this new leave entitlement with their other impacted leave policies.
- Employers should post the Notice of Compliance [PFL 120] received from their insurance carrier in a conspicuous place.
- Employers should identify employees who will not be eligible for Paid Family Leave and inform them that they can choose to waive coverage. Distribute and collect waivers from non-eligible employees.
- Post or distribute the Statement of Rights for Paid Family Leave when an employee takes Paid Family Leave or takes time off from work for a Paid Family Leave qualifying event, even if they have not requested Paid Family Leave.
- Train managers to recognize Paid Family Leave requests and to alert Human Resources, and train Human Resources on how to process requests, including distribution and completion of appropriate paperwork and tracking leave.
While this may sound like a lot to do, rest assured that we have been helping employers through all stages of managing and implementing this new policy.
California Expands Protections with New Parent Leave Act
For those employers with employees in California, the New Year brings new developments on the family leave front as well. While California employers with 50 or more employees continue to be covered by the California Family Rights Act and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, as of January 1, 2018, the newly-enacted New Parent Leave Act will expand those protections to smaller employers. The new law requires California employers with 20 to 49 employees within a 75-mile radius to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid parental leave to employees.
The law covers employees with more than 12 months of service with the employer and at least 1,250 hours of service during the previous 12-month period, and permits leave to be taken for a single purpose: “to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.” The 12 weeks of leave provided by the New Parent Leave Act is in addition to the up to 4 months of pregnancy disability leave (PDL) available to employees working for an employer covered by the California PDL law, i.e. employers with five or more employees. You can find more information on the New Parent Leave Act in our previous post.
Introducing … Protected Weekends
Need a vacation after implementing all these changes to the family leave laws? Well, a few employers have tossed around the idea of a protected weekend. While novel, some companies are beginning to require that employees take vacation and at least some time off on the weekends. Both Citigroup and JP Morgan have recently implemented a “Protected Weekend” day on which employees may not come into the office or log on remotely to work – however, they can monitor their emails in case any critical issues arise. We will keep watching for developments in this area as companies that have adopted these policies begin to accumulate data regarding their effectiveness.