Families First

New York State mandates paid family leave as of 2018.

Westchester residents will soon be able to bring home the bacon and care for their families simultaneously. That’s because Governor Andrew Cuomo, as part of New York State’s 2016-2017 budget, signed legislation to include the new Paid Family Leave Program.

Already on the books is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides certain employees job-protected — but unpaid — leave for specific medical and family reasons, but Cuomo’s new bill mandates 12 weeks of paid time off for all full-time and part-time employees who are new parents; whose family members are called for active-duty military deployment; or who have to care for family members with serious health conditions.

New York’s paid family leave policy will phase in over the next four years. Here’s the breakdown: 

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By 2018:

Companies will be required to offer employees 8 weeks of paid family leave. 

By 2019: 

Companies will be required to offer 10 weeks of paid family leave.  

By 2021:

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 Companies will be required to offer 12 weeks of paid family leave. 

The program will phase in over the next four years, starting on January 1, 2018 (see details, right). New York’s program is entirely employee-funded (in the form of small employee payroll deductions expected to take effect on or about July 1, 2017) and will provide workers with an annually escalating percentage of their average weekly wages. Initially it will cover half of an employee’s average pay. Over four years, it will eventually replace 67% of a worker’s average pay (50% in 2018, 55% in 2019, 60% in 2020, and 67% in 2021).

Although Westchester businesses are not required to offer paid family leave yet, some companies are already fostering environments understanding of familial responsibilities. Tarrytown biotech giant Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, for instance, maintains a comprehensive family-care policy, including maternity, parental, and adoption/surrogacy leave for full-time employees. “There are very few things in life as special as spending time with your family after bringing home a new child or children. We strive to provide a work atmosphere that supports our employees in all aspects of their lives,” says Florence Marino, senior director of human resources at Regeneron.

Headquartered in White Plains, Danone North America also offers paid parental leave, giving employees six months with their newborns. The company’s new policy reflects its commitment to health, says Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations.

John Ravitz, chief operating officer of the Business Council of Westchester, certainly agrees with the intent of the legislation yet advises caution. “Most employers want to do right by their employees in this area,” he says, “but by putting a policy like this in place, will it hurt small business and nonprofits? There are a lot of consequences for employers who want to do the right thing but who may have to make tough decisions about structuring their workforces.”

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According to many media pundits and the state’s own official website, New York will be home to the nation’s longest and most comprehensive paid-family-leave program. 


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