Paid Family Leave Joins DBL as Mandatory Benefit in New York State

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Effective January 1, 2018, New York joins the progressive states of California, New Jersey and Rhode Island to require mandatory Paid Family Leave for all qualifying employees. This affects all business owners in New York State, not just those with 50+ employees.
If you’re an insurance broker already providing Disability Benefits Law (DBL) coverage or enhanced DBL, your clients may have questions about this new benefit. First, it’s important to understand that PFL is not the same as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA only secures an employee’s job and does not provide additional funds should an employee have to take a leave of absence due to childbirth, caring for a disabled child or caring for an older family member. A federal program, FMLA only applies to employers with 50+ employees.

Who Qualifies for PFL?

Unlike FMLA, PFL mandates up to 12 weeks of job-protected, paid leave for all New York employees, regardless of the size of the company, for any of the following reasons:

-bonding with and caring for a newborn, adopted, or foster care child during the first 12 months
– caring for a seriously ill family member
– addressing important needs related to a family member’s military service.

The Specifics of PFL

To qualify for PFL benefits, a full-time employee must have worked 26 or more consecutive weeks. Part-time employees must have worked 175 days. PFL benefits will be phased in over time to reach the maximum paid leave, never exceeding a percentage of the state’s average weekly wage (AWW), beginning January 1, 2018. Benefit amounts are as follows:

Beginning January 2018: 50 percent of the employee’s AWW for 8 weeks
Beginning January 2019: 55 percent of the employee’s AWW for 10 weeks
Beginning January 2020: 60 percent of the employee’s AWW for up to 10 weeks
Beginning January 2021 and on: 67 percent of the employee’s AWW up to 12 weeks

What Else Your Customers Need to Know About PFL

Employees are permitted – but not required – to use their accrued vacation time or PTO in addition to PFL benefits, but cannot claim DBL and PFL at the same time. PFL benefits begin on the first full day the employee requires paid family leave. When possible, the employee should give 30 days’ notice, but if this isn’t possible, such as in the event of a family emergency, or a premature birth, they should let the employer know as soon as possible. In either case, benefits can start on the first day off. The PFL benefit is funded by a nominal employee contribution; employers are not required to fund any portion of the PFL benefit. However, employers must invest in a policy that covers both DBL and PFL benefits under the same policy, but, as of right now, New York State Disability Benefits Law will not change under this new legislation. This could be the first step in legislation that would increase the statutory benefit in phases. That’s why it’s a great opportunity to evaluate your customers’ DBL coverage now to prepare for what may come.

Why It Matters to Insurance Brokers

As you re-write your customers’ DBL policies to cover PFL in preparation for January 2018 and beyond, this represents an opportunity to employ consultative selling techniques to increase your customers’ DBL policies with Enhanced DBL coverage.

Keep in mind: Employers are not required to fund PFL coverage, so no money comes out of their pockets as their employees’ benefit coverage improves. This is a great time to re-evaluate your customers’ DBL coverage. Are they doing enough for their loyal employees? What if you could increase the employees’ nominal contributions just a bit more, beyond PFL coverage, and provide an enhanced DBL policy that offers expanded benefits and more flexibility in how employees collect those benefits? Employers might even be willing to match employee contributions for a more robust enhanced DBL policy.

These are pre-tax benefits, and with the 2016 presidential election coming up, the future remains uncertain. Will taxes go up for the working middle class to fund programs the new president may support? Employees and employers alike will be looking for additional ways to reduce their tax liability.  Increasing insurance coverage for events that are likely to occur (and may even be planned), such as the birth of a child, a spouse’s military service, or the illness of an aging parent, provides a peace-of-mind that is hard for middle class, working Americans to find in today’s economic climate.

Why This Is Important for America

The new PFL requirements fill an important space today. These benefits affect every generation of worker, as “sandwich generation” or Generation X, and Baby Boomer employees face hardships caring for aging loved ones, and younger GenX and Millennial workers may plan to start families through childbirth or adoption.

Today’s insurance brokers are in a unique position to support a program that supports American families, while increasing their own commissions through consultative selling of PFL and enhanced DBL benefits in New York.


What Can Employees Do When Temporary Disability Runs Out?

Business owners in New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii must provide temporary disability payments for up to 26 weeks to employees who are ill, injured, or had a baby. But 26 weeks is not a long time for a person with a significant injury or a life-changing illness. Where can employees turn when temporary disability (DBL coverage in New York, TDB in New Jersey, and TDI in Hawaii) runs out?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Some people with an illness or injury may try to apply for Social Security benefits. However, to qualify for Social Security / Disability benefits, you must be unable to work for at least one year, or have an illness that will lead to death. The time between 26 weeks and a year is a long span to live without any income if you are unable to work. That’s where income replacement insurance – purchased privately or through the employer – comes in.

One of The DBL Center’s insurance broker partners in your area can assist with these types of coverage.

Why Healthy Individuals Need Disability Coverage

The Social Security Administration estimates that a 20-year-old employee faces a three in ten chance of becoming disabled before age 65. Other reports say one in four workers becomes disabled during their working life. These odds increase for heavy smokers, people who are overweight, or those who have a chronic condition such as heart disease,diabetes, or high blood pressure.

Yet, only 45 percent of millennial workers have long-term disability insuranceApril-Post-1-TD-Runs-Out, according to The Hartford Financial Service Group. More than 20 percent of millennials said they would need help from family or friends or move back in with their parents if they were unable to work due to illness or injury, while another 20 percent would have to rely on credit cards or borrowing against their 401K retirement account.

While employees don’t want to consider being one of the 25 to 30 percent of people who become disabled, it’s a reality. And most disabilities are caused by illness, not injury. Knowing they are protected, whether through private income replacement insurance or employer-funded temporary disability benefits offers peace-of-mind and greater financial security.

Extended Disability Coverage through the Employer

As the person in charge of the purse strings, you may wonder why you’d want to invest in additional insurance coverage that will pay out to your employees but not offer your company any real benefit?

The cost to the company is actually very small, especially if you purchase coverage as part of extended disability benefits. Extended disability coverage not only increases the length of time employees may be covered, but can provide more than the state maximum in benefits. Employers may collect up to 75 percent of their salary – enough to live on, in most cases –through enhanced disability benefits.

This benefits package may entice help entice star talent, but, more importantly, it can help you retain high-quality employees after they bounce back from an illness or injury. If your company took care of them in their time of need, they will return to work with a degree of loyalty. In fact, due to the strain financial difficulties place on person’s health, having disability coverage to provide for themselves and their family could, in fact, help make a return to work after injury or illness possible.

Private Long-Term Disability (LTD) Insurance

For self-employed contractors or individuals whose companies don’t provide extended disability coverage, insurance brokers offer long-term disability or income replacement insurance. Since the premiums on this insurance are paid out-of-pocket, the disability income is not taxable, so claimants receive their full benefits when they need the money most.

The Choice Is Yours

As the business owner or person in charge of HR decisions for the company, the decision to provide extended or enhanced disability coverage lies in your hands. Weigh cost factors with the intangible benefits of employee recruiting and retention.

Keep in mind that disability coverage doesn’t have to be “all-or-nothing.” You can give your employees the option to buy into a policy with lower premiums than they would get if they purchased individual disabilityon their own. Or you can split the cost with them. Since this is a pre-tax benefit, some employees may enjoy the tax benefits, too, although it means they will have to pay taxes on their disability income if they ever make a claim.

However you choose to structure the offerings, consider making extended disability coverage part of your employee benefits package. Contact your insurance broker to help you explore your options.