NY Employers' Biggest Concern with Paid Family Leave
In his recent legal update to the Capital Region Human Resources Association, nationally acclaimed labor attorney, John Bagyi, shared a number of regulatory topics impacting employers across NY State.
He saved the best for last: New York Paid Family Leave.
Regarding the dynamic nature of the regulation, which goes into effect on January 1, 2018, Bagyi remarks, “There is a lot of inconsistent information still coming out…it’s going to be a bumpy road. This is one of those policies I would write in pencil.”
Point being, employers need to stay on top of NY PFL updates in its first year, and constantly review their leave policies to ensure they’re both in compliance and not leaving the organization vulnerable to abuse. (We'll keep blogging about the changes, so please subscribe today).
One example that Bagyi provided dealt with ensuring company leave policies were structured to charge employees using intermittent leave for bonding with a new child with both PFL and FMLA. Per the Department of Labor, FMLA for child-bonding must be taken as a continuous block of leave, but PFL is less restrictive, allowing employees to take leave increments as small as a day for child bonding.
The risk is that an employee takes every Monday and Friday off under PFL to bond with their child, exhausts their PFL bank, and then taps into a full FMLA leave balance for a further 12 weeks. That kind of absence can cripple a workforce.
For foreseeable leave events, such as bonding with a child after a birth or adoption, employees are required to give employers 30 days-notice from the intended start of their leave. Come December 1, employers can expect the first surge of leave requests. Bonding leave can take place within a year of the child’s birth or adoption, so this could be the most likely population to use the new benefit.
For a side-by-side comparison of the two leaves, we have an earlier blog highlighting Where FMLA and NYPFL Coincide.
Beyond the Admin Work, What's the Real Challenge with NY PFL?
While the administrative burden is significant with NY Paid Family Leave, Bagyi shared that employers have a bigger concern ahead of them—staffing.
For employers with over 50 employees that are accustomed to FMLA, they’ve already built contingencies for employees on leave. One or two absences can hurt production, but they can often get by on cross-training and spread loading the work across their workforce.
Take those same two absences in a group of 7 or 10, and the impact can be catastrophic.
In other words, now is the time to be building relationships with staffing organizations, cross-training job functions, and reviewing your leave policies.
One item to consider is how the employer will collect employee benefit contributions during the time of absence, and what actions they will take in the case of non-payment.
Particularly vulnerable to prolonged staffing shortages are those groups that have robust leave packages, like small non-profits. Employees can leverage their paid-time-off to augment their pay while out on PFL, prolonging their benefit and curbing the financial impact. This creates a further administrative burden to employers when it comes to deducting benefit contributions and requesting reimbursements from NY PFL carriers.
In short, employers can build policies and contingency plans that allow them to be responsive, vice reactive, to their first leave event. But time is running out.
For employers looking for an easier way to track and administer NY paid Family Leave and/or FMLA, click here to learn more about Benetech's Leave of Absence Manager.