Family leave benefits in New York bring new IRS tax implications
Disability Benefits Law (DBL) brokers in New York State are getting a handle on the new paid family leave benefits, with the new PFL law set to start January 1, 2018.
The DBL Center has provided a host of paid family leave resources and information in a new section on our website. We will also continue to offer webinars and live sessions explaining the intricacies of this new benefit.
While we know tax laws may change across the board in 2018 for businesses and individuals, it’s important to understand the tax ramifications of PFL for employers and employees now.
In short: how should accounting departments, Human Resources, payroll, and benefits departments in small businesses and larger corporations treat family leave employee contributions and benefits?
Family Leave: Taxable Just Like Disability Income
Family leave benefits, just like short-term disability benefits, are taxable as non-wage income and reported by taxpayers using FORM 1099-MISC.
The exception? Employee contributions, deducted after taxes, are not included as part of this taxable income. The insurance provider or employer should send a 1099-G form that employees can use when filing taxes, so they know which portion of their family leave benefits are taxable.
Employees Should Understand Withholding Tax Laws to Budget for An Event
The tax ramifications of paid family leave benefits will take some money out of the pockets of claimants. Smart planning can help employees minimize their tax liability on April 15, when federal and state income taxes are due. Alternately, employees can opt to keep more money in their pockets when they need it most—at the time of the family leave.
Employees can request to have withholding taxes deducted from their family leave benefits before receiving their benefits. This will reduce the size of benefits checks, but may also help reduce tax liability at the end of the year. Depending on the length of the maternity leave, the employees’ personal savings and financial situation, along with their expected tax bill, some employees may choose to have taxes withheld.
More commonly, employees will collect the full amount of their family leave benefits and then pay taxes on that income when they file federal and state income taxes. By that time, it’s expected that employees would be back to work and collecting their full salary, putting them in a better position to pay those taxes.
In the case of family leave taken for childbirth or adoption, the employee may also be able to take advantage of the child tax credit and claim their new family member as a dependent, further reducing their tax liability.
How Family Leave Taxes Affect Brokers
As a broker, it’s good to know the tax implications if Paid Family Leave in order to help educate the c-suite executives and HR professionals who make up your client base. You can be a resource for your customers and the first person they think of when they need an expert in PFL and disability benefits law.
When you inform employers and employees of the potential tax ramifications, this can help them make the best decisions or decide to pursue further information from tax experts. When customers have questions, it’s important to suggest they check with a tax professional to determine the best course of action.
Are Your Customers Ready for Paid Family Leave?
The PFL benefits rider to New York State DBL goes into effect in less than two months, on January 1, 2018. Many of your customers should already be deducting employee and employer contributions.
Now is the time to discuss options, including enriching their DBL benefits package so it is comparable to paid family leave in New York.
Contact The DBL Center now to enrich DBL for your customers and increase your commissions on these important mandatory benefits.
by Dawn Allcot
History (nearly) repeats itself with the introduction of Paid Family Leave
October 29, 2012: It was a sad day for many New Yorkers as properties were swept away in Superstorm Sandy, businesses went under, and more than 8.1 million homes across the U.S. were left without electricity for a week or more.
Superstorm Sandy caused losses totaling $19 billion dollars, resulting in delayed payouts and financial hardship to the insurance agencies that paid out more than they’d earned in premiums. Many P&C brokers struggled to survive.
Meanwhile, Zurich Insurance Company, a leading global business insurance carrier, had just left the New York State DBL market a week prior due to a number of factors. Turmoil and uncertainty plagued the industry, as New York tri-state area business owners struggled to pick up the pieces and adopt a “new normal” after Sandy.
Here we are almost exactly five years later, and the entire U.S. is banding together to assist those suffering from the aftereffects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida.
In New York, as we write this, the wind whips outside the windows of our Long Island headquarters, and the nearby Costco parking lot is packed as Long Islanders brace for a tropical storm —which could be the first of many this ominous hurricane season.
In the disability insurance sector, changes are once again brewing that have nothing to do with Mother Nature’s wrath. Paid Family Leave, a necessary insurance coverage that will provide employees with a living wage as they take time off to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child, care for an elderly parent, or hold down the fort while their spouse serves in the military, may burden some disability insurance carriers past their breaking point.
We don’t want to be alarmist. We only want to report the news with our analysis as we see it.
The Problems with PFL that No One Else Is Talking About
There are only a few select carriers that have committed to write PFL, which is offered as a mandatory rider to DBL coverage in New York State beginning January 1, 2018. Fortunately, those carriers are doing an excellent job of educating small business owners and HR directors about the implications of the coverage, as well as giving brokers what they need to know about the policies. DBL Center brokers have the added advantage of our industry experience and knowledge, along with access to educational webinars and live informational sessions. We’ve worked hard to make the transition to mandatory PFL coverage easy for brokers and small business owners alike.
But some challenges remain. Because PFL coverage is mandatory and written with DBL coverage, brokers will be left with fewer choices for DBL. Some carriers have already left the market, just as Zurich did five years ago. We expect many more to exit in the beginning of 2019, after the numbers come in for the first year of PFL coverage.
PFL, as it stands, is not profitable for insurance carriers. Payouts could easily total more than premiums, leaving carriers in the same position P&C brokers faced immediately following Superstorm Sandy. Some carriers will write PFL riders—because the only other choice is to leave the game altogether. But they may not offer commissions on the riders. Some carriers are recommending that brokers write enriched DBL on their existing policies to earn the commissions they expected from PFL.
Enriched DBL: The Answer to Bigger Commissions
There are a number of reasons to enrich DBL coverage right now. Not only is enriched DBL one of the more profitable products for brokers to write, it also provides customers with the best coverage for their money.
As an example, small business owners can enrich DBL coverage in $50 increments for just 44 cents every $50, up to $850 total. For an investment of just $5 a year, employees can get $50 more per week for up to 26 weeks. It doesn’t make sense not to enrich DBL. Paid Family Leave was carefully designed to provide employees with a living wage while they are out on leave. Mandatory DBL coverage only pays a maximum of $170 per week. Who can live on that in New York?
Most states that offer Paid Family Leave offer comparable benefits for disability claims. This helps reduce fraudulent claims and helps maintain employee morale by leveling the playing field and offering all employees comparable benefits if they need them.
DBL Center Brokers: Weathering the Storm
With Harvey and Irma on our minds, New Yorkers last week prepared for a storm that never came. Just like Mother Nature, the insurance industry is fickle. And, in both cases, it’s important to be prepared.
Carriers can exit at any time, for any reason, just as Zurich did in 2012. Who will be next? Brokers who align with DBL Center preferred carriers who are writing PFL riders are protecting themselves against changes in the marketplace.
Educate your customers about PFL riders before someone else does. Be their authoritative source and guide them to the right decisions, including enriching DBL so it is in line with PFL benefits.
Fortunately for brokers working with The DBL Center as their insurance wholesaler, we make it easy to write enriched DBL policies and earn greater commissions. Stay tuned, because next week we talk with our Director of DBL and TDB Benefits, Selena Kutschera, to show you just how simple it is to increase commissions with enriched DBL in three easy steps.
Meanwhile, stay safe and dry. The best protection against any storm is the right preparation. Our thoughts are with those across the country affected by this season’s hurricanes and storms.
Autumn is approaching and, here at The DBL Center, it’s one of our favorite times of the year. Autumn on Long Island is absolutely beautiful, with so much to do. Baseball season comes to a climactic ending with the pennant race heating up and the promise of post-season play. (We don’t want to talk about the Mets, but will the Yankees make it?) Football season begins. Weekends at the wineries on the East End are a perfect way to relax with family and friends. Fall festivals bring fun for all ages.
Autumn is also the time of harvest – when hard work comes to fruition to create a bounty. This is definitely what’s happening at The DBL Center this year. Our efforts of the first three quarters combined with legislation changes have resulted in tremendous growth for our business and expanded commission opportunities for our brokers across the country —especially here in New York and New Jersey.
PFL Is Here
If you’ve been reading our blog and newsletter, you’ve no doubt heard about the changes to Paid Family Leave. NOW, this autumn, is the time, if you haven’t already started, to educate your customers about this mandatory insurance. PFL coverage is written as a rider to existing DBL policies in New York, and employers are permitted to begin withholding to pay the premiums. If you haven’t begun discussing coverage options—and suggesting enriched DBL as an additional policy upgrade—now is the time.
As part of our expanded marketing and outreach efforts, the DBL Center launched a webinar series this autumn to explain this new coverage to our brokers. We have a resource center in the works, and also recently launched a video Q&A with DBL Center President Michael Cohen discussing some surprising facts about PFL that even the most savvy brokers may not know.
The webinar, video and resource center for PFL are just the beginning. We also have plans to launch a PR and marketing campaign designed to educate New York business owners about PFL, which will help our brokers sell the coverage by creating a more knowledgeable audience.
New Hires Help DBL Center Continue to Provide Personalized Service
Our growth initiatives also extend over the bridge into New Jersey. The DBL Center recently hired two new employees to help accommodate our rapid expansion and better serve our brokers. Lori Rose joins The DBL Center to serve our New Jersey brokers as Assistant Vice President of Ancillary Lines. Lori has been in the insurance industry specializing in employee benefits for over 25 years, with expertise in Group Life, Disability, Dental and Vision. We are excited that she is bringing her expertise and passion for insurance sales and service to DBL Center brokers.
In addition, Melissa Bilka has joined The DBL Center team as Benefits Coordinator. A newcomer to the insurance industry, with a degree in Mathematics Education from Long Island University, Melissa will assist our expanding Group Ancillary Department in providing the level of white-glove service our brokers and their clients have come to expect.
DBL Center App Goes Online
The DBL Center has always been on the cutting edge of technology, and as we enter the fourth quarter of 2017, this remains true. In addition to an upgraded database that will streamline operations in-house, we’ve launched our new app that helps our brokers manage their accounts from anywhere they might be working—in the office, at home, or on the road.
Look for Even More from Your Insurance Wholesaler
As we move into what promises to be our most exciting fourth quarter in our 40-year history, we have even more in store to help our brokers with a consultative approach to insurance sales. Stay tuned to our blog and sign up for our newsletter to stay on the forefront of industry developments and learn how to expand your book of business with minimal effort.
And about those Yankees? Through our partnership with Steiner Sports, we can help you set up celebrity appearances or even reward your best customers with once-in-a-lifetime sports experiences this autumn. From PFL to home plate, we’ve got you covered.
Bold statement from DBL Center President Michael Cohen leads into how brokers can grow their book of business with PFL
P&C and health brokers know that enriched DBL in New York can be a tough sell.
As a mandatory benefit, DBL is a no-brainer, but let’s face it: The commissions aren’t making anyone rich. That’s why we promote enriched DBL, as well as ancillary benefits, including vision, dental, and even life insurance as a way for brokers to expand their book of business and make more money.
But with the introduction of the Paid Family Leave Act, DBL is finally relevant again. That is to say, it’s not only making headlines everywhere in New York, it’s also become profitable. “Health brokers, life brokers, P&C brokers, even estate planners and CPAs are using PFL as a tool to broaden their book of business. And, of course, here at The DBL Center, we love it,” says Michael Cohen, DBL Center President.
Questions about PFL?
If you’re reading this, you probably know that PFL coverage, which goes into effect in New York on January 1, 2018, will be written as a rider to existing DBL policies. And that employers were allowed to begin deducting premiums as of July 1, 2017. “A lot of brokers and employers face some confusion or hesitation about the payroll deductions,” says Michael Cohen. “I’m telling people not to get hung up on the deduction, but instead think about how you are marketing PFL to grow your book. As brokers, at the end of the day, it’s all about taking advantage of these opportunities to increase profits.”
The DBL Center is taking a multi-faceted, multi-tiered strategic plan to marketing PFL which, in turn, helps their brokers. “We’re relying on our relationships with top carriers, and differentiating ourselves with educational content, including webinars and thought leadership articles. We are building an even stronger social media presence on LinkedIn, and we are leveraging the relationships I have in the entertainment industry to organize seminars and talks with celebrity tie-ins,” says Michael Cohen. “In essence, we are working hard to make the industry fun again while sharing information and promoting a very profitable – and important – product.”
Still have more questions about PFL and how to use it to grow your book of business?
DBL Center President Michael Cohen recently recorded a video with ShelterPoint that tackles many of the toughest questions about PFL coverage in New York.
Make sure to watch to the end, because you won’t believe what Michael Cohen says about how PFL will change the DBL industry —for the better. Watch the video here, and use the information to drive PFL marketing campaigns within your own brokerage.
One of The DBL Center’s preferred carrier partners, AmTrust, offers the information you need to help your clients get ready for PFL and ensure compliance.
“At the early stage of any new insurance regulation, education is key.” This is how Joy Maas, Director of Marketing, Sales, and Accountant Management for AmTrust Financial Services, a top provider of New York and NJ state disability benefits, began our recent conversation about the Paid Family Leave regulations going into effect January 1, 2018.
For employers, education means learning how to ensure compliance with the new regulations, understanding what the PFL benefit covers, and knowing where to turn with questions they might have.
For our insurance brokers, it means partnering with carriers, through The DBL Center, who are prepared to offer PFL as a rider to existing DBL policies. More importantly, it means taking advantage of the tools and resources available so that you can continue to educate your clients on what they need to know.
“One of the best ways brokers can get more attention and write more business, right now, is to be the expert on the topic of PFL,” Maas continues. “Be the educator.”
Resources for Brokers
Since the day the news broke about PFL, The DBL Center has kept our brokers updated with information via our blog, newsletters, and a seminar series hosted and sponsored by The DBL Center and featuring our top carriers.
Brokers who show their customers they are well-versed in PFL will be in a position to earn additional business by writing PFL riders to existing DBL policies, and brokers who write their business with The DBL Center have a choice of top carriers and a host of resources at their fingertips.
PFL Compliance is Key
Of all the details available about PFL, compliance is, perhaps, the most critical. Brokers can use consultative selling techniques to build trust and explain how employers can purchase PFL coverage to avoid hefty fines and liabilities.
Employers should know, PFL compliance requires that they:
Penalties for Non-Compliance
Additionally, employers should know that the Workers’ Comp Board is allowed to assess non-compliance penalties up to ½ of 1 percent of the employers’ weekly payroll for the period of non-compliance, as well as mandating that the employer pay any PFL claims. An additional penalty of up to $500 may also be assessed.
Non-compliance is pricey, while PFL compliance is simple. And although we don’t know the premium rates at this time, we should know soon. When the rate is announced, you’ll be sure to read about it here on The DBL Center blog and in our newsletter.
Let the Education Continue
Maas asserts that the brokers who are willing to educate their clients on PFL are the ones who will win the business—and possibly even sell enriched DBL policies at the same time. “Let your clients know what PFL means, how it looks, and what they can do to prepare,” she tells brokers.
Maas and her colleague, David Clark, will co-present a seminar sponsored by The DBL Center Ltd. and hosted by DBL Center Partner Michael Cohen on June 7, 2017, from 2 to 4 PM at The DBL Center headquarters in Melville, NY. For details please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited.
At this fun and informative event, both AmTrust and DBL Center representatives will answer our brokers’ questions about PFL and share all the details you need to sell this new mandatory benefit knowledgeably.
The opportunities under Paid Family Leave are too powerful to ignore.
Are you an insurance broker worried about managing the added operational and transactional requirements of New York’s new Paid Family Leave laws? Although the rate has yet to be announced (as of this writing), and no one knows the commission potential, one top DBL carrier isn’t worried — and says you shouldn’t be either.
New York State PFL is one of the most comprehensive policies of its kind in the country offering paid time off and job security for employees. We covered some of the specifics of the mandatory Paid Family Leave benefits here. But if you’re a broker, you probably still have questions. Fortunately, The DBL Center, along with ShelterPoint Life, one of our top carriers, is prepared with answers.
How Much Commission Can Brokers Earn?
Commissions will depend on the rate, which is yet-to-be-announced, although we’re expecting to find out by early-to-mid May. “Our commitment is we are going to do everything possible to make fair payments to brokers,” says DeWitt M. Smith, Senior Vice President and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer for ShelterPoint Life, a top-rated insurance carrier poised to offer Paid Family Leve coverage through brokers across New York State.
Because of the additional premiums that will be deducted from employee wages and paid by employers, there could be a “nice increase in potential commission revenue,” continues Smith. “We believe the State appreciates the efforts involved by the brokers, and will make it possible for us to offer incremental increases in broker commissions.”
In short… we’re still waiting to find out how much commission brokers can earn. But The DBL Center and ShelterPoint Life are ready to make it as easy as possible for brokers to streamline PFL sales, enabling brokers to maximize those potential profits. “We’re working to take the worry and stress out of all the transactional and compliance-related issues that go along with PFL,” says Smith.
How Much Work Will It Take?
Writing PFL coverage will represent an added step in a consultative selling approach for DBL brokers in New York. In spite of the news coverage, many employers and HR executives still don’t understand what PFL means or what they need to do to get coverage in place. Employers can begin making payroll deductions for this coverage as early as July 1, so it’s up to you, the trusted broker, to educate your customers on their options.
Fortunately, ShelterPoint Life and The DBL Center are working to make it easy. If you currently write your NYS DBL policies with ShelterPoint Life through The DBL Center, PFL coverage will take the form of a simple rider added to the DBL policy. “For brokers accustomed to working with us in a simple, automated way online, adding PFL coverage to existing policies should be easy,” says Smith.
Brokers who offer PFL should also be ready for an influx of new customers, as only select carriers will write PFL coverage. Brokers who work with The DBL Center have an advantage, because our brokers can continue to write both DBL and PFL coverage policies through us.
My Customers Have Questions. Where Can I Go To Find the Answers?
The PFL education process will take time. Yet, it represents a great opportunity for brokers who work with The DBL Center to employ their consultative selling skills to give customers the answers they can’t find elsewhere. “We’ve had a dedicated task force in place since the day the law was signed,” notes Smith. “We also have a robust external communications strategy, with a dedicated PFL micro-site, blog, and newsletter designed to provide answers to brokers, employers, and employees.”
Browse the ShelterPoint PFL micro-site, formulate a marketing strategy to educate customers, and be certain to turn to The DBL Center should you (or your customers) have additional questions. You might also make plans to attend our informative seminar, sponsored jointly by ShelterPoint Life, The DBL Center, and the New York Business Council, to be held May 10, 2017 from 3 to 5 PM at The Friars Club, 57 E 55th Street, NY, NY. Seating is limited, so RSVP today by emailing email@example.com.
NY Paid Family Leave, the most comprehensive Paid Family Leave program in the country, is set to go into effect January 1, 2018. But for employers and brokers preparing for the moment, the date isn’t as far off as it sounds. And employers can begin making payroll deductions as early as July 1, 2017.
First, a quick recap of the proposed regulations:
NY Paid Family Leave provides employees with the income they need to enable them to stay home and care for:
Paid Family Leave will be phased in over the next four years, until 2021, when PFL will pay out the maximum coverage of 67 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage for 12 weeks. Coverage will be community rated to promote a fair and efficient market, and coverage will be written as a rider to existing DBL policies.
You can learn more about the specific details of the law in this blog post, when The DBL Center blog broke the news to our network last April.
In the past year, we’ve been staying on top of the news and we’ve discovered some interesting facts:
Because PFL coverage will exist as a rider to current New York State mandatory DBL coverage, these changes affect P&C brokers who write DBL coverage. Brokers SHOULD look at the coverage as an opportunity.
The DBL Center and our carriers are here to help you leverage this opportunity for increased commissions (whatever the actual amount may be!) on mandatory, employee-funded PFL coverage. The process is one of education and consultative selling, rather than hard sales. And The DBL Center is here to assist every step of the way, with the information our brokers and their customers need to make the best decisions and guide you in this new claim process.
Our soon to be released mobile app, combined with the technical infrastructure provided by preferred vendors to process policy riders, gives our brokers the tools they need to be successful in this new venture.
It’s also a good time for our brokers to review and enrich existing DBL policies beyond the state minimum, in preparation for the Governor’s office to potentially increase the DBL benefit. After all, Governor Cuomo’s father Mario was the last one to increase the weekly indemnity back in 1989. We never know. Changes are ahead, and they promise to be good ones for brokers who work with The DBL Center as their insurance wholesaler and have the tools to take a consultative approach to selling DBL in New York.
But what are the rates for NY Paid Family Leave? And how much do brokers stand to make from the new PFL coverage? These are the top questions on the minds of many of our brokers. Certainly, the state acknowledges that brokers’ workloads will increase as a result of the new coverage, and industry experts believe rates will be fair to enable reasonable broker commissions. But right now, all we can do is expect the best.
The good news is that all the uncertainty ends on June 1, when the state announces the coverage rates. Soon after that, carriers will announce broker commissions. And employers are permitted to begin deducting payments for NY Paid Family Leave premiums beginning July 1.
In addition, brokers have until April 8 to read the draft regulations and make comments. The full text of the regulations can be found here.
Meanwhile, We Wait…
As we wait for the proposed regulations to pass and the State of New York to set the rate, it’s important to continue educating employers on the law. That way, when the time comes for them to purchase this mandatory coverage and, even before then, to begin making payroll deductions on July 1, they will know where to turn.
Stay tuned for further information regarding our Q&A seminar at The Friar’s Club next month in conjunction with The New York Business Council and one of our preferred vendors. With The DBL Center behind you, our brokers are poised to make the most of NY Paid Family Leave.
by Michael Cohen
Brokers can profit by providing your customers with the information they need about Paid Family Leave.
Last year, New York State announced new Paid Family Leave regulations to be phased in over four years starting in January 2018.
The regulations would give New York families the best coverage in any state, surpassing even California, which currently has the most generous PFL laws in the country.
To recap what Paid Family Leave provides to employees (from our April blog post, which you can read here):
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:
Draft of PFL Regulations Released
Yesterday, the State of New York governor’s office published an important press release outlining developments in the PFL law, as well as a draft of parts of the new PFL regulations. The regulations are now in an important, 45-day pubic commenting period, so changes can still be made. One of our top carriers, Shelterpoint, compiled the regulations in an easy to read format.
Local Change Sets an Example for the Nation
Described as the “nation’s strongest and most comprehensive Paid Family Leave policy,” the policy seeks to support our state’s working families. While past presidential administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have touted support for women and families, the fact is, the U.S. has failed when it comes to putting the legislation in place to support parents and other caregivers.
New York’s PFL policy, like those of California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, creates a benchmark for other states to follow in providing families with the financial support they need when caring for children and the elderly, and to assist military families in their times of need.
What PFL Means to New York Insurance Brokers
PFL is mandated insurance coverage, just like NYS DBL. Employers will be turning to their DBL insurance providers for the information they need. Obviously, writing PFL policies represents another stream of revenue for brokers—and because it’s mandatory, it’s an easy sell. Your customers know and trust you. They will come to you with questions. It’s important to be prepared with the right answers.
That’s where The DBL Center comes in. We are your back-office for insurance sales and service, including DBL, ancillary benefits, and now, PFL coverage.
What We Know Right Now About PFL in New York
We know that the new insurance will be employee-funded and community rated, but we don’t yet know the rates. It will be up to carriers to set commissions, which will be dependent on the state-mandated rates in order to keep this employee-funded coverage affordable.
As always, the best way to make money on these policies is to bundle them with other coverage to maximize commissions. Rely on The DBL Center as your back office staff to do the legwork, so you can optimize your time and maximize your profits.
We urge our brokers to read through the regulations, think about them carefully, and propose suggested changes in writing, which will serve to benefit insurance brokers and their customers.
Most importantly, keep an eye on this site to read the latest news and developments about PFL in New York. The times they are a’changing, as they say.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.