Clarissa Rodriguez, chair of the state Workers' Compensation Board, said...

Clarissa Rodriguez, chair of the state Workers' Compensation Board, said the change will mean a net gain for employees. Credit: NYS Workers' Compensation Board

Employees who use Paid Family Leave this year to care for a new child or ill family member could receive slightly higher cash benefits thanks to an expansion of the program’s weekly maximum payout.

The maximum weekly benefit for New York State’s Paid Family Leave program has risen to $1,151.16 — $20.08 above the weekly maximum benefit in 2023, reflecting a rise in average wages, according to the Workers’ Compensation Board, which administers the program.

Additionally, workers this year will have to contribute a smaller percentage of their gross wages each pay period to the leave program — down to 0.373% from 0.455% last year. Contributions are capped at an annual maximum of $333.25, the board said.

“Increasing the maximum benefit combined with lowering the employee contribution rate means more money where it’s needed most — in workers’ pockets," Clarissa M. Rodriguez, Workers’ Compensation Board Chair said in a statement.

Long Island Paid Family Leave claims

2018: 15,859
2019: 19,019
2020: 18,093
2021: 22,385
2022: 23,687

Source: Department of Financial Services

Under New York’s Paid Family Leave law, workers are entitled to receive 67% of their average weekly pay for up to 12 weeks. For example, a Long Islander with an average weekly wage of $1,000 would receive $670 in cash benefits.

A worker with an average weekly wage of $2,000, however, would only be entitled to the maximum weekly payout of $1,151.16, not $1,340.

Employees can only utilize paid leave if they are taking time from work to bond with a newborn, adopted or foster child, care for a family member with a serious health issue, or assist loved ones when a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent is deployed on military service.

Benefits may also be available if an employee or their child is under a COVID-19 quarantine order.

In 2022, more than 23,680 Paid Family Leave claims were paid out on Long Island, according to data from the state Department of Financial Services.

This year’s contribution rate for Paid Family Leave-eligible employees was lowered based on calculations by the Department of Financial Services. The agency determined that, based on factors including the estimated number of New Yorkers expected to use the benefit, the overall cost of claims would be lower than last year.

Paid Family Leave, while similar in some respects to the federal Family Medical Leave Act, has some key differences, said Ana Getiashvili, partner and co-chair of Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone’s labor and employment practice group in Mineola. 

“FMLA is unpaid. That’s the big difference,” Getiashvili said. The federal FMLA permits workers to take time off to deal with their own health issues.

Employers send employee PFL paycheck contributions to insurance providers who ultimately determine if a claim is approved and paid, Getiashvili said.

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