New York Updates PFL Rates and Maximum Employee Contributions for 2019

On Aug. 31, 2018, New York’s Dept. of Financial Services (DFS) published the NY Paid Family Leave (PFL) rates for the 2019 calendar year. Effective Jan. 1, 2019, the maximum benefit will go from 50 percent to 55 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage, and up to 55 percent of the statewide average weekly wage for up to 10 weeks of leave (an increase from eight weeks for 2018). The 2019 premium rate for PFL benefits will increase to 0.153 percent of the first $70,569.72 of an employee’s annual earnings, for a maximum per employee premium of $107.97 per year. In comparison, the 2018 rate is 0.126 percent of the first $67,907.84 of an employee’s annual earnings, for a maximum per employee premium of $85.56 per year.

As background, NY’s PFL program became effective on Jan. 1, 2018 and states that eligible employees in NY may take time off to bond with a new child, care for a family member with a serious health condition or handle personal matters arising from an immediate family member being called to active duty in the Armed Forces of the U.S. The law requires DFS, by Sept. 1 of each year, to publish the rate for the policy period beginning on the following Jan. 1 and also set the maximum employee contribution rate for PFL for the upcoming calendar year. This decision supplements an earlier update provided by the DFS on March 31, 2018, that increased the NY State Average Weekly Wage (NYSAWW, to which NY PFL premium caps and benefit levels are tied) from $1,305.92 (in 2018) to $1,357.11 (in 2019). For 2019, the annualized equivalent is $70,569.72; for 2018, that equivalent is $67,907.84.

Importantly, and looking at practicalities, for PFL claims that commence during 2019, the benefit percentage payable in connection with the claims will increase from 50 to 55 percent, and the benefit duration will increase from eight to 10 weeks (less any PFL time taken within the prior 52-week look-back period), regardless of whether the qualifying event occurred in the prior year. This is especially important to note in connection with employees who may qualify for baby bonding PFL based on a birth, adoption or foster placement that occurs in 2018 but who choose to begin their baby bonding PFL on or after Jan. 1, 2019. To help explain, PFL leaves that commence in 2018 are subject to the applicable 2018 benefit limits, regardless of whether the leave continues into 2019. One exception to that rule applies when there’s a gap of more than three months between the end of one period of PFL leave and the start of the next period of PFL leave for the same qualifying event.

NY employers should be mindful of the continued requirement to comply with the state’s PFL law for 2019 and coordinate with their PFL carrier to provide the requisite PFL coverage. Employers can use DFS’s Model Language for Employee Materials in updating employee handbooks and other communications. Ultimately, employers should work with outside counsel in developing their overall leave policy in conjunction with the requirements of NY PFL.

DFS Publication »
NY PFL Model Language for Employee Materials »