NYS Paid Family Leave Benefit Expands

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS 

DC 37 negotiated to have the NYS paid family leave law include all members covered by the 2017-2021 economic agreement. The provisions of the law also cover members in the non-profit and private sector locals.

In 2021 the PFL benefit increases to 12 weeks, from 10 weeks. The maximum weekly paid benefit increases to $971.61 or $1,943 bi-weekly. PFL pays 67% of the employee’s average weekly wage up to the  cap at 67% of the New York State Average Weekly Wage of $1,450.

“In a year of unprecedented challenges, this is great news about an insurance program for our members,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido.

“The PFL benefit provides a way for union members to care for their families without jeopardizing their job security or health insurance,” Garrido said. “That the benefit is being increased and expanded in 2021 is definitely good news.”

DC 37 has had good member participation in the PFL program. Between Jan. 2019 and Oct. 2020, New York’s Paid Family Leave benefit helped 4,348 DC 37 members get paid time off to bond with their young child or care for seriously ill close relatives.

“More male employees are using this benefit to bond with their infant, compared to the time period before the benefit. Traditional care giving patterns of a female providing care giving for an ill family member are still apparent in the data, but there are positive movements for males over time.  We attribute this to the job protection, health insurance continuation and partial income replacement that is provided by the benefi,” said Moira Dolan,  senior negotiator in the DC 37 Research and Negotiations Dept.

The benefit also can be used while bonding with an adopted or fostered child; caring for a spouse, in-law parent, a grandparent, or grandchild(ren), or helping when a spouse, partner, child or parent is deployed abroad for active military service.

While on Paid Family Leave, the member can receive a partial salary, based on a statewide formula, and continued health insurance. They are guaranteed the same or a comparable job after their leave ends.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some members have used Emergency Paid Family Leave while their child’s school is closed. That program expires on 12/31/20, unless Congress reauthorizes it.

The 2021 payroll deduction rate for the PFL benefit will increase pursuant to NYS Department of Financial Services Regulations. The 2021 maximum contribution rate is 0.511% of the employee’s gross annualized wages capped at $75,408* (based on the new state Average Weekly Wage (NYSAWW).

The 2021 maximum annual employee contribution is $385.34 per employee. It is based on gross bi-weekly wages including overtime and may fluctuate from paycheck to paycheck. Employees earning less than $75,408 a year will not reach the maximum contribution, which is scaled to income.

The rate is based on members’ utilization of PFL along with the scheduled benefit increase.

This is an insurance based plan where all employees are in the plan in case they may  at some time in the future need to use the benefit. Only employees who know they will work for less than 175 days, such as summer seasonal employees, will not have a deduction as long as they fill out a waiver form.

“It is important to note that DC 37 members who start their PFL benefit in 2020 will have their benefit based on the first day they start their leave,” Dolan said. “If there is a three month gap in the leave, they can start a new application and can get the higher benefit in 2021.”

The benefit can be used at once or by incremental full days over a 12-month period.

Full-time employees who work a regular schedule of 20 or more hours per week,   are eligible for PFL after 26 consecutive weeks of employment.

Part-time employees who work a regular schedule of less than 20 hours per week
are eligible for PFL after working 175 days, which do not need to be consecutive.
The benefit also applies to DC 37 members caring for a spouse, domestic partner (including same and different gender couples; legal registration not required); parent/stepparent, child/stepchild and anyone for whom you have legal custody.
It may apply if you are serving in the role of a parent for a child (‘in loco parentis’), even if you are not legally or biologically related to the child, or if someone stood ‘in loco parentis’ to you when you were a child.

For more information, click on to the PFL calculator for 2020. It will be updated for 2021. 

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