NYS Paid Family Leave Benefit Expands

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS 

DC 37 negotiated to have the New York State Paid Family Leave law (PFL) include nearly all members covered by the 2017-2021 collective bargaining agreement. The provisions of the law also cover members in the non-profit and private sector locals.

In 2021, the PFL benefit increased to 12 weeks, from 10 weeks in 2020. While on Paid Family Leave, the member receives a partial salary, based on a statewide formula, continued health insurance, and is guaranteed the same or a comparable job after PFL ends. 

“In a time 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. That the benefit is increased and expanded in 2021 is definitely good news.”

The maximum weekly paid benefit increases to $971.61 or $1,943 bi-weekly. PFL pays 67 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage, up to the New York State Average Weekly Wage cap of $1,450.

DC 37 has had good member participation in the PFL program. (See the Family Ties story.) Since January 2019, New York’s Paid Family Leave benefit has helped over 4,400 DC 37 members get paid time off to bond with their child or care for seriously ill close relatives.

“More male employees are using this benefit to bond with their infant. 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 benefit,” said Moira Dolan, senior negotiator in the DC 37 Research and Negotiations Dept.

Employees can use the PFL benefit while bonding with an adopted or fostered child; caring for a spouse, parent, mother- or father-in-law, grandparent, or grandchild(ren); or helping when a spouse, partner, child or parent is deployed abroad for active military service.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some members have used Emergency Paid Family Leave while their child’s school is closed. Although Congress allowed the Family First Coronavirus Response Act to expire Dec. 31, 2020, New York City is continuing FFCRA provisions. 

The maximum weekly paid benefit increases to $971.61 or $1,943 bi-weekly. PFL pays 67 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage, up to the New York State Average Weekly Wage cap of $1,450.

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.

This is an insurance-based plan where all employees contribute to 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. Employees of CUNY senior colleges, the TBTA, Transit Authority and seasonal City Lifeguards are exempt from the state paid family leave benefit. 

“It is important to note that DC 37 members who started their PFL benefit in 2020 can reapply and can get the higher benefit in 2021, once there is a three-month gap in the leave time,” Dolan said.

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 time used for PFL does not count as pensionable time but it is not a break in service. Before retiring, a PFL participant would need to add 12 weeks, for example, to their final years of service anniversary to reach their target retirement date.

For more details about the PFL benefit, please contact your DC 37 rep. To access the 2021 PFL calculator visit: http://on.ny.gov/2LsklQ8

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