New York PFL vs. New York State Sick Leave Act: What Insurance Brokers Need to Know

 

New York insurance brokers may be getting questions from customers about the New York State Sick Leave (NYSSL) act, which went into effect September 30, 2020. However, employees cannot take paid sick leave through the state law until January 1, 2021, or at a time after that date if their employer requires them to accrue paid time off.

A direct result of the coronavirus pandemic to help contain the spread of the virus by encouraging employees to stay home, with pay, if they are not feeling well, the Paid Sick Leave Law mandates that employers of any size now provide paid sick leave to employees.

Unlike New York State DBL benefits or Paid Family Leave (PFL), New York State Sick Leave  (NYSSL) is funded entirely by employers through payroll. It is not an insurance benefit.

However, employers may have questions about when employees can use their paid sick leave and when they need to file a claim for DBL or PFL. It helps brokers to be aware of the new legislation to reduce unnecessary or unqualified DBL and PFL claims in New York.

New York PFL v. DBL v. NYSSL

The duration of NYSSL is much shorter than New York State’s short-term disability coverage or PFL coverage.

Here are a few other differences between the three types of leave:

DBL / Enriched DBL

DBL or enriched DBL insurance provides partial pay to employees who are seriously ill or injured and cannot perform their normal job functions for up to 26 weeks. The DBL Center can help you bind DBL & Enriched coverage under 50 lives easily online here.

New York State Paid Family Leave (NYS PFL)

Written as a mandatory rider  to statutory DBL coverage, PFL in New York provides partial pay to employees taking time off to care for an ill family member, a newborn (or newly adopted or newly fostered) child within the first year, or to manage family matters while a military spouse is deployed. The maximum duration for Paid Family Leave is 12 weeks. Learn more about New York State PFL coverage, first introduced in 2017, here.

NYSSL

Introduced in September 2020 and going into effect on January 1, 2021, Paid Sick Leave provides full pay for up to 56 hours (in some cases) for employees who are:

  • Sick or injured
  • Caring for family members who are sick or injured
  • Under quarantine due to possible exposure to COVID-19
  • Caring for minor family members under quarantine

The New York State Sick Leave law (NYSSL) also covers a host of other circumstances for which employees may need time off, including:

  • Preventative care
  • Mental health
  • Medical or mental health treatments
  • Domestic violence incidents

Other Differences You Need to Know About DBL/PFL and NYSSL

The reason for Paid Family Leave or DBL must be documented on the appropriate claims form. On the other hand, the reasons for taking NYSSL can remain confidential. Employers may not require employees to disclose any confidential information regarding their need for sick time.

In addition, the definition of a family member as it relates to paid sick leave extends beyond the PFL definition to include siblings, grandchildren, grandparents, and the children or parents of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner.

How Employers Can Issue New York State Sick Leave

Business owners in New York have a choice to “frontload” employees’ sick time at the beginning of the calendar year, offering paid sick leave from day one that the benefit goes into effect (January 1, 2021). Or, employers may permit employees to accrue sick time at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 or 56 hours in total – depending on the company size.

Employers with at least 100 employees must provide 56 hours paid sick leave. Employers with fewer than 100 employees or fewer than five employees but a net income of $1 million for the prior tax year must provide 40 hours paid sick leave.

Businesses with fewer than five employees but less than $1 million in net income must allow 40 hours of unpaid sick leave with no disciplinary action permitted for employees who take that time off without pay.

Should Your Customers’ Employees File a DBL or PFL Claim?

The decision for an employee to take paid sick time or to file a DBL or PFL claim largely comes down to the duration of the time off required and, of course, the reason. See below:

  • DBL insurance claims provide partial pay for severe illnesses or injuries that require more than a few days or a week out of work.
  • PFL, on the other hand, covers employees when they need to care for someone else for an extended time period of up to 12 weeks.
  • NYSSL offers full pay up to the amount of accrued sick time. It permits parents to stay home for a short duration with a sick or feverish child without losing a day’s pay. It also makes it financially easier for employees who are feeling under the weather to call out sick and avoid spreading germs.

Help Your Customers Understand the New Laws

Until now, Paid Time Off remained the choice of New York State business owners. Many companies provided generous PTO while others didn’t. Some small business didn’t even have a written policy but trusted their workers not to take unnecessary time off.

By standardizing PTO under the NYSSL, and outlining specific permissible reasons for sick time, New York State has eliminated confusion, miscommunication, or gray areas surrounding PTO.

By understanding the new law, you can help your customers reduce unnecessary DBL or PFL claims and continue to act as a resource for them when it comes to managing employee benefits.


Should the State Increase NY Disability Insurance Rates?

Governor Cuomo signs Covid-19 legislation.We’re living in unprecedented times and federal, state, and local governments are looking for ways to adapt. Seeking a balance between regulations and budget, legislation has sought to help Americans keep their businesses open and their employees paid through the vast challenges 2020 has brought us.

Most business owners in New York, along with insurance brokers and other professionals, have concerns about keeping our economy going. Increasing NY disability insurance rates for statutory DBL coverage might be the last thing on people’s minds. But it’s something those of us in the insurance industry should be thinking about.

Should the State Consider Raising NY Disability Insurance Benefits?

NY State Disability Insurance benefits, or DBL, has not increased in decades. With a maximum payout of $170 per week, NYS DBL lags behind New Jersey TDB benefits, and even Massachusetts and Connecticut. The latter two states recently introduced statutory paid leave for non-work related illness or injury.

The last thing New York business owners would want to face right now is a premium increase for any benefits. Many New York City landmarks have shuttered as a result of recent events, and mom-and-pop shops in Main Street areas across upstate and downstate New York have closed permanently or struggle to stay alive.

But an increase in NY state disability insurance pay-outs could yield benefits to employers in the long run, especially as we face uncertainty related to the pandemic. Will DBL claims rise if we see a second wave of the virus? Will the government be so quick to offer Federal aid packages the second time around? Will businesses, already hard hit by recent events, be able to mount a second comeback? No one knows the answers to these questions.

FFCRA Alleviates Pressure on NY State Disability Insurance Brokers

When the first wave of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, hit, the Federal government intervened with the Families First Act. The FFA alleviated much of the pressure on insurance carriers who otherwise would have faced unprecedented levels of claims because of COVID-19.

Here at The DBL Center, we also sprung to action. Our COVID-19 pre-screening software helped eliminate confusion regarding NY State Disability Insurance claims and FFA claims.

If the Federal government had not signed the FFA to help Americans with income replacement if they became ill from COVID-19 or had to care for family members with the virus, disability insurance carriers and brokers may have experienced a situation similar to what P&C brokers in the northeast experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Business owners and the insurance industry, alike, were not set up to respond to an emergency of this scale. Our country was not prepared; but perhaps there is no effective way to prepare for a global pandemic.

Looking to the Future of NY Disability Insurance

Many people reading this, even our brokers who are tapped into the industry, don’t realize that the governor initially had plans to increase DBL benefits when he introduced Paid Family Leave. A short-term disability insurance increase was in the original legislation, but removed before the Paid Family Leave Act was signed.

Increasing NY state disability insurance benefits will help business owners retain high-quality talent, which is a challenge in any economy. New York City, especially, is suffering from “brain drain,” or young, smart, and affluent couples leaving the city. Reports say five percent of Manhattan’s population fled the city between March 1 and May 1 at the height of the pandemic. Further, 69% of tech and finance employees said they would leave New York if they could work from home.

This exodus began years prior to the pandemic because of real estate prices, but was exacerbated this spring.

No, increased DBL may not tip the scales, but having peace-of-mind that you can survive on your disability insurance benefits should you become ill with coronavirus could give many New Yorkers one less reason to leave. Couple that with the most robust PFL policy in the nation, and New York becomes a more family-friendly state.

It’s a good time to make legislation changes right now. New Yorkers have become accustomed to rapid change and increased benefits, including the $600 Federal boost in unemployment benefits.

As always, because it is a shared benefit, DBL represents one way business owners can provide added value to their top employees at a small cost.

Until the time comes that NY State disability insurance benefits rise, business owners can purchase private disability insurance in New York. DBL Center brokers can offer their customers increased benefits through enriched DBL, white-glove service, and faster, more flexible payouts.

What do you think? Is it time for NY to increase their disability insurance benefits?


The Rule of 72 and Why Your Customers Need Enriched DBL

In our last post, we spoke about using ancillary benefits to help reduce the financial stress that’s placed on employees.

This is especially crucial for employees in the New York tri-state area, which includes regions with the highest cost of living in the country. An accident or illness can leave an employee’s finances depleted. The New York State minimum for DBL coverage hasn’t kept up with inflation and isn’t enough to live on. In fact, the statutory disability benefit in New York has not increased since 1989.

The Rule of 72, for example, states that a specific dollar amount invested at an annual fixed interest rate of 10% would take 7.2 years to double. Yet, in 30 years the DBL benefit has remained the same.

Why not enrich DBL for a very low cost, ramping up the ROI on the investment?

Enriching DBL helps this important benefit keep pace with inflation to cover more of an employer or employee’s living expenses if they are ill or injured.

Consider the Needs of Your Customers

While it’s important to consider hourly workers who may be living paycheck to paycheck, it’s also important for brokers to consider the needs of company owners and top-level employees, including CEOs, CFOs, and HR managers, who make the buying decisions when it comes to employee benefits.

Of course, c-level executives want the best benefits for their employees to improve morale, maximize productivity, and aid recruiting and retention. But if you can also sell decisionmakers on the benefits that also serve their best financial interests, you’ll earn their lifelong trust.

Twenty years ago, Governor Mario Cuomo voted to increase the statutory disability benefit. His son, Andrew Cuomo, decided not to increase DBL. Instead, he introduced Paid Family Leave as a statutory benefit in New York.

But PFL – while it’s undoubtedly an important benefit – doesn’t apply to a vast majority of workers. Many middle-aged and older employees are past child-raising years and have already faced the loss of their parents. People in these demographics, especially middle managers and top executives, need benefits that will appeal to their needs.

Enriched DBL is a “set it and forget it” benefit. Once a business owner enhances their short-term disability benefits in New York, they will renew automatically each year. They aren’t likely to go back to the state minimum benefits.

Why Is Enriched DBL Such a Good Investment for Company Executives?

Many business owners and executives have savings and investments to cover a worst-case scenario such as an accident or illness that could leave them unable to work.

But, in fact, enriching DBL can be the smartest investment company leaders can make.

If it takes 7.2 years to double your income from investments at a rate of 10%, you don’t want to pull that money out to cover your living expenses.

Enriched DBL allows employers and employees – from c-level executives to hourly wage workers – to keep their savings where it is and receive a rate-of-return on their insurance premium that is far beyond any investment.

If a company enriches DBL by 5X, they will only pay $9.75/mo/male in premium and $11.50/mo/female, and if they need to make a claim, receive $850 per week for up to 26 weeks.

When you show your customers the math – and the benefit of leaving their investments growing – they will ask you to enrich DBL for their own financial peace-of-mind.

Build Relationships with the Right Advice

Smart insurance brokers are serving two customers – the employees who use the benefits, and the company owners and HR executives who are making the decisions on what benefits to offer.

When you can open doors to give them a low-cost, high-return benefit that appeals to employers and employees alike, you can gain trust and earn their business for life.

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Are You Selling DBL Coverage and Ancillary Benefits to Your Customers Who Need It?

Coastal Insurance offers tips to expand your book of business with strategic cross-selling of home insurance, DBL coverage, and ancillary products

By David Clausen, Coastal Insurance

If you’re like most P&C brokers, NYS DBL and NJ TDB insurance aren’t your only niches. Most brokers sell a variety of lines, whether it’s healthcare, business insurance, or personal lines of coverage like home insurance.

But you may not be thinking of ways to cross-sell your lines to expand your book of business and increase your commissions without cold calls or prospecting for new clients.

When you get in the habit of consultative selling, which includes getting to know your customers, their businesses, and additional insurance needs they may have, you’ll discover avenues to increased profits.

Mandatory coverage like workers’ compensation and NYS DBL coverage, along with enriched DBL, provide excellent upsell opportunities. Many business owners don’t realize they need this coverage even if they only have a few employees. Even if they know about statutory DBL coverage, they may not recognize the opportunities available with enriched DBL and ancillary benefits.

As their trusted insurance broker, you can help make sure they are protected from nearly any contingency. Chances are, you are already taking some of these steps. But are you closing the deal?

These tips, garnered from years of experience selling home insurance and other personal and business lines to Long Island-based customers, can help you expand your book of business.

1. Look for opportunities to upsell complementary insurance lines by getting to know your customers.

In Coastal’s niche market of home insurance for high-net-worth homeowners, many of our best clients also own their own businesses. This means they need workers’ compensation insurance and statutory disability coverage in New York State.

Ask your customers, “Who is currently writing your statutory DBL coverage?” to uncover opportunities.

With the introduction of Paid Family Leave as a rider to DBL, they might be looking to shop their policy around, since some carriers have stopped providing DBL.

2. Don’t forget about your customers who hire domestic employees.

Most Coastal customers who aren’t business owners are c-level executives, celebrities, and other high-net-worth individuals who may hire domestic employees to help run their households. A lot of people don’t know that workers’ compensation and NYS DBL coverage is mandatory in New York for full-time domestic employees or for domestic employees who live in your home, even if they don’t work a full 40-hour week.

This includes nannies, au pairs, housekeepers, gardeners, chefs, drivers, personal assistants, and anyone else who works for an individual. Even if people may treat their nannies or housekeepers like family, the State of New York classifies them as domestic workers or residence employees – and they need to be insured as such.

There can be hefty fines for failing to provide the proper insurance coverage for domestic workers, not to mention the liability if an employee gets hurts on the job. Brokers are doing a service to their customers by letting them know what employee coverage is required.

As with any job, providing ancillary benefits to domestic workers can also help improve retention rates and reduce sick time.

3. Discuss the potential for ancillary benefits.

Whether your customers are business owners seeking to hire the best employees, or individuals with a team of domestic help, they may not have considered ancillary benefits as a low-cost way to recruit and retain employees.

Benefits like Group Life, vision, and dental coverage are still highly sought after by workers. In a Harvard Business Review study, 88 percent of employees said they would consider accepting a job with a lower salary if the position had better health, dental, and vision benefits than the job with the higher pay.

Explore these possibilities with your customers, and they will look to you as a trusted business resource rather than just someone selling insurance products.

4. Educate your customers about enriched DBL.

NYS DBL coverage provides a bare minimum to help an employee who is ill or injured (while not on the job). DBL pays out just 50 percent of an employee’s salary up to $170 per week for 26 weeks.
Enriched DBL is a powerful retention tool for middle managers who exceed the maximum payout but may not have private disability insurance or a savings account to help get them through a medical emergency.

With the introduction of Paid Family Leave as a rider to DBL coverage in New York, many employers are looking to enrich DBL benefits in order to provide coverage comparable to PFL for employees who don’t have, or plan to have, families or may want a robust benefits package for themselves.

PFL was the big news in the insurance industry in 2018, but many people still aren’t aware of the policy changes. Stay on the forefront, educate your customers, and they will trust you to write their policies for personal and business insurance.

5. Offer the best rates by bundling coverage.

When you take advantage of The DBL Center’s carrier relationships, you can bundle lines to provide your customers with the best rates for DBL, ancillary benefits, and more.

Why would they go to any other broker if you’ve positioned yourself as a one-stop-shop for their business and personal lines of insurance coverage?


Why New York State Employers Should Offer Enriched DBL Coverage

Five ways it benefits employers to provide a living wage for workers on NYS DBL.

In the months leading up to the election, there’s been a lot of talk about Americans having the opportunity to earn a living wage. While some states have minimum wage laws in line with their costs of living, the Federal minimum wage as of 2016 is only $7.25 as of July 2016. Most of us reading this might remember earning that much during high school or college—it’s certainly not enough to raise a family or buy a home. New York State workers—and their employers—face another wage challenge: Mandatory NYS DBL payments cap out at 50 percent of an employee’s paycheck, up to $170 per week. This is not a living wage. And the financial burdenNYS-DBL-Businesspeople is even greater if the employee is facing medical bills and co-pays or the birth of a newborn and the added expenses that come with a child.

But there is a solution.

It’s important for New York State business owners, CFOs, and HR directors to understand why they should offer enriched DBL coverage in New York to provide employees on temporary disability with a living wage. If you’re a broker, please share this information with your customers to start earning commission on these enriched mandatory benefits today.

1. Enriched DBL coverage can encourage employee retention.

An injured or ill employee on temporary disability shouldn’t have to worry about how they will pay their bills. If your organization isn’t taking care of them, they might use their time off to polish up their resume and look elsewhere.

2. A robust benefits package helps attract top talent—even across state borders.

Today’s employees, particularly millennials, want to have it all in a job: Salary, flexible hours or work locations, and a robust, customizable benefits package. Providing enriched DBL—even if the majority of your employees don’t use it—lets you beef up your benefits package.

Additionally, New York-based businesses in Manhattan or on the New York / New Jersey border should consider that they are competing with New Jersey-based businesses—which already have a generous mandatory disability benefits package—for top talent. A NYS DBL package that rivals New Jersey’s Temporary Disability Benefits might help you attract the best employees from over the bridges.

3. As far as benefits go, enriched DBL provides employers and HR directors with a lot of “bang for their buck.”

With minimal employer contributions, which can be shared with employees at a rate of one-half of one percent of the employee’s wages up to 60 cents per week on pre-tax dollars, employers can offer generous NYS DBL coverage of up to $850 per week. Few benefits cost so little yet provide so much value.

4. With New York introducing Paid Family Leave in 2018, enhancing DBL benefits to keep pace will improve employee morale and loyalty.

In states that offer Paid Family Leave, this benefit for new parents and anyone caring for an ill or injured loved one has been shown to improve employee morale and loyalty. More importantly, co-workers don’t mind helping out to cover for employees taking Paid Family Leave.
Offering enriched NYS DBL benefits for employees who are ill or injured can help ensure co-workers won’t resent those who are out on PFL, because they know they have the same protection should they ever be unable to work.

Additionally, New Jersey employers found that the state’s generous paid leave package helps reduce stress amongst employees who took leave, as well as their co-workers, which can impact the company’s bottom line, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

5. Top executives benefit, too.

When you enrich your DBL benefits package in New York, your disability benefits package will increase, too, up to the maximum of $850/week or $1020/week with in-hospital coverage. You can also add an Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D) rider to the policy, with a tiered plan that will provide your C-suite with the most coverage available.

Find out more about Enriched DBL in New York State in this post, or bind your NYS DBL quote for a company with fewer than 50 lives here.


“Meternity” Book Spotlights Shortcomings in Employee Benefits

Today’s HR directors can provide equitable employee benefits to all.

If you or your spouse has read or seen the new novel “Meternity,” you might find the premise unrealistic – if not completely ridiculous. The book’s author, Meghann Foye believes women who choose not to have children should still receive paid time off during their child-bearing years. She wrote a novel exploring what might happen if a 30-something worker faked a pregnancy to claim her “meternity” leave. “[A]s I watched my friends take their real maternity leaves, I saw that spending three months detached from their desks made them much more sure of themselves,” Foye writes in the NY Post.

But rather than revealing how unfair maternity leave is to childless workers, the book, in fact, succeeds to showcase the shortcomings in minimum employee benefits across the board. And the insurance industry is in a good space to help HR directors and CEO solve these problems.

Current Disability Benefits Law in NY

In New York, employees currently file for maternity leave under disability benefits law, which entitles new mothers to receive up to $170 per week for 26 weeks, maximum. Depending on their salary, this amount may be much lower, as DBL is calculated as 50 percent of the claimant’s average weekly pay. Many parents can’t afford this level of pay cut, so choose to stay home only 12 weeks; most day care facilities accept children as young as three months, but not younger than that.

With the introduction of federal mandatory Paid Family Leave benefits next year, maternity packages will be more enticing. But for now, creating fair maternity leave policies – as well as equitable benefits packages for the rest of their employees – is in the hands of business owners.

Enriched DBL Gives Mothers and Babies the Time They Deserve Until Paid Family Leave Goes Into Effect

Do working moms really get better employee benefits?
Employers have the choice to offer more than the minimum DBL coverage. An enriched DBL package in New York can bring the percentage of benefits closer to the employee’s salary. Enriched DBL could mean new parents — today, two years before PFL goes into effect — may not have to cut corners as much at a time when their living expenses increased because they had to add the cost of diapers, baby products, and additional medical coverage and care to the family budget.

Enriched DBL also makes it possible for new mothers to take their full 26 weeks, going back to work when the baby is six months old instead of just three. Of course, it’s not like babies are self-sufficient at this age, but they are more interactive and many are sleeping through the night – which makes getting up in the morning to go to work that much easier from a physical perspective.

Enhancing Your Other Employee Benefit Packages

But let’s get back to that book that casts a resentful eye on working mothers everywhere. Certainly, some employees do feel resentment toward working parents, but anyone who has friends who are working moms – or who has ever had a conversation with a mom about work/life balance – knows it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Parents don’t look forward to missing days of work due to children’s illnesses or leaving early for school meetings. In fact, they begin to fear their job security and it can make it harder for them to get ahead in a competitive workplace.

However, as we all know in the business world, appearance and perception matters. If your other employees harbor resentment toward members of your workforce, it’s time to make a change.

Short of providing a paid sabbatical to childless workers, ask them what kind of benefits they’d prefer. Maybe it’s a better retirement plan. Or group life insurance coverage for themselves and a spouse. Maybe your employees are unhappy with their health care coverage and would like ancillary benefits like dental and vision.

Bundled with enriched DBL coverage in New York, these benefits become very affordable. Talk to your insurance broker or contact The DBL Center, today, and we will connect you with a trusted partner who can help.