Starting January 1, workers in New York State will be eligible for Paid Family Leave, providing them an opportunity to take time off to care for a sick family member or bond with a new baby without losing pay.

Brian Murphy, a partner at Lawley Insurance in the Employee Benefits division, said there are some key difference between Paid Family Leave and the Family Medical Leave Act, including who’s covered, what’s not and how the coverage is funded.  


Question: What is Paid Family Leave (PFL)?

Murphy: It allows employees to take time off to care for a family member who is seriously ill. It allows them to receive a portion of their paycheck and be sure their job will be there when they get back. It also allows them to maintain their health insurance benefits while out caring for their family member. They can also bond with a new child or help take care of things at home preparing for a military deployment.


Q: How is the PFL funded?

Murphy: It’s a rider on your New York State disability insurance policy. It’s an insured product. You’ll have to fill out a claim form provided to you by your insurance company. They’ll approve the leave and they’ll send you a check, kind of like disability check but it’s not for disability.


Q: How does it differ from the Family Medical Leave Act?

Murphy: There’s a few differences, the big one being Family Medical Leave is not paid. You can take up to 12 weeks with Family Medical Leave but you don’t receive compensation when you’re out. Some of the other big differences is medical leave is you can take that for your own disability or caring for an ill family member. New York State’s version is not for your own medical purposes, it’s for family members.


Q: Who qualifies for PFL?

Murphy: It’s for private employers. If you’re a state employee or government employee, it’s generally not a part of your package. But for any private sector employer, one employee and up, they’re going to participate in Paid Family Leave program, unlike Family Medical Leave, which is for employers with 50 or more employees.


Q: What difficulties might PFL present for employers?

Miurphy: We see that as one of the issues we’re going to be running into. Smaller employers, especially who have employees with a very specialized skill set, if they’re going to be out for an extended amount of time, trying to fill that gap could be very difficult for smaller employers throughout New York State.