Although summer is turning into fall, the Paid Family, Medical, and Sick Leave landscape continues to heat up. Get up to date on the latest developments in New York, Washington, California, and Michigan.
New York Paid Family Leave (NY PFL): New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) published the NY PFL rates for the upcoming 2019 year. According to the DFS publication, the premium rate for Family Leave Benefits for coverage beginning January 1, 2019, will increase from 0.126% to 0.153% of an employee’s gross wages each pay period up to an annual maximum employee contribution of $107.97.
Also new for NY PFL in 2019:
- Starting January 1, 2019, the number of weeks eligible employees can take to bond with a new child, care for a sick family member, or assist loved ones when a family member is deployed abroad on active military service will increase to 10 weeks.
- The PFL wage replacement benefit is also increasing. In 2019, employees taking Paid Family Leave will receive 55% of their average weekly wage, up to a cap of 55% of the current Statewide Average Weekly Wage of $1,357.11. The maximum weekly benefit for 2019 is $746.41.
- Still to be determined: Will NY PFL cover organ and tissue donation as a serious health condition? NY Senate Bill 2496 remains ready for the governor’s signature. If signed, it will go into effect 90 days later.
New York’s PFL Office has issued helpful FAQ’s addressing some of the issues associated with these changes. Because leaves can span from 2018 into 2019, employees and employers may have questions about how to treat those leaves in light of the increased leave and benefit entitlement. The FAQ has provided the following guidance:
- If an employee starts a continuous leave in 2018 that extends into 2019, the employee receives the benefit rate and number of weeks in effect on the first day of the leave.
- If an employee starts an intermittent leave in 2018 that extends into 2019, the employee is eligible for the benefit rate and number of weeks in effect on the first day of a period of leave. When more than three months pass between days of PFL, the next day or period of leave is considered a new claim; the employee must submit new paperwork and may be eligible for the increased benefits available if the day or period of PFL begins in 2019.
- For an employee who has a baby in the fall of 2018, she can wait until 2019 (as long as it is within the first 12 months of birth, adoption, or foster placement) to take PFL to get the enhanced benefits.
- An employee who used all eight weeks of PFL in 2018 may be able to take an additional 2 weeks of PFL in 2019 if the employee experiences another qualifying event. Since the maximum amount of leave in 2019 is 10 weeks in a 52 week period (on a rolling back basis), if the employee took eight weeks of PFL in the prior 52 weeks, the employee would be limited to two weeks at the new rate. When it has been 52 weeks from the 2018 leave dates, the employee will accrue additional PFL.
New York has provided updated resources:
- Employer Overview Presentation (slides)
- Model Language for Employee Materials – Updated for 2019 (template)
- Employee Notice of Paid Family Leave Payroll Deduction for 2019 (template)
- Paid Family Leave Rider – Model Language
Washington Paid Family Leave: Washington’s PFL regulatory process continues its onward march. The Phase 2 Rulemaking, pertaining to employer responsibilities, penalties, and small business assistance, continues, with the final rules expected to be filed by November 2 for a December 3 effective date.
The Phase 3 Rulemaking, related to benefit applications and benefit eligibility, has kicked off, with the first draft of rules filed on September 12. The rules provide detail on employee notice, employee applications and required documentation, and benefit calculations.
For employers considering a Voluntary Plan, the Washington State Employment Security Department has provide a handy Voluntary Plan Guide and resources in the form of a Voluntary Plan Customer Care Team to answer questions at 833-717-2273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
California Paid Family Leave (CA PFL): California Senate Bill 1123 was enrolled on September 5, 2018, and has been sent to the governor for signature. This bill would expand the scope of the CA PFL program to include time off to participate in a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty, or call to covered active duty, of the employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent. The law contains a comprehensive list of activities covered under the new leave reasons, including:
- attending official ceremonies or programs
- participating in a family support or assistance program
- arranging for child care for a child of the family member in the Armed Forces
- making financial or legal arrangements related to the call to active duty
- addressing issues arising from the death of a family member
The governor’s deadline to sign the bill is September 30, 2018. If signed, it will go into effect on January 1, 2021.
Michigan Paid Sick and Safe Leave: Michigan made news last week when state legislators adopted a ballot proposal – The Earned Sick Time Act – to mandate paid sick and safe leave. Backers of the proposal were gearing up for a November ballot measure, but instead the legislature adopted the measure in regular session. Having passed the bill through the legislature, only a simple majority is now required to amend the bill. Had it been approved through the ballot measure process and vote, the legislature would have needed a three-quarters vote to make any changes.
The law, as passed, requires employers to allow employees to accrue and use 72 hours of paid sick time per year. Employees of small businesses (employers with less than 10 employees) can accrue and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year. The law will not go into effect until March 2019, although it is widely anticipated that the law will be amended before that time.
A controversy is heating up as to whether a legislature is permitted to amend a bill that was approved as a ballot measure in the same legislative session. Proponents of the ballot measure argue that it violates the state constitution for the legislature enacting a ballot proposal to amend the law in the same legislative session. Those supporting the legislature’s actions disagree, arguing that the state’s constitution contains no such limitation. An emergency ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court has been requested, though no decision has yet been issued.