Understanding legally mandated leave benefits available to your employees and how to they work in conjunction with the organization’s leave policies can be challenging. Here is a refresher on what those benefits entail, and best practices in managing them.
Current Federal and NY State Leave Benefits:
The Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers employees 12 weeks of unpaid time off for family and medical life events, such as pregnancy or dealing with a major mental illness. This law was designed to give employees job security.
New York Paid Family Leave (NYPFL) expands the FMLA definition of who is covered and eligible while providing 10 weeks of paid leave (currently, about 55% on average of weekly wages but will increase in 2020). Those covered include bonding with a newborn or caring for a seriously ill family member. Additionally, this benefit provides leave options to military families. This benefit does not cover employees caring for their own illness or injury, whereas FMLA does.
New York Disability Benefit Law (NYDBL) is limited to the employee who is injured or considered disabled. The coverage is up to 26 weeks of paid leave (up to 50% of average weekly wages or $170 per week maximum).
Best practices and tools that can be used to ease leave administration procedures as well as employees’ experience:
Leave Management System:
Having a leave management procedure in place will save an organization time and resources when it comes to administering leave for employees. This may include a guide for staff with the forms and rules around the different leaves of absence that are available, as well as what vendors or third party administrators they may need to contact. Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) can also be a great tool to track time and pay when employees are on leave.
Organizations should begin communication with staff members who intend to take leave in advance. Along with the guide provided, a conversation about coverage, workload, usage of PTO and which leave to start with will place the staff member at ease. When an employee requests to take leave for a period of time because of a life changing event, make sure to assess the situation and remind the employee which benefits they are eligible for.
Using Benefits Concurrently:
Some of these legally mandated benefits, as well as organizational provided leave benefits, can run concurrently depending on the employee’s eligibility and needs. In some cases, the fact that more than one can be taken at the same time can significantly supplement the employee’s wage and/or time away.
Internal Leave Policy:
Some organizations have leave policies that go beyond what the state or federal law mandates. For example, instead of the 10 week NYPFL allowance, the company policy might offer 12 weeks of paid leave at 80 percent of employee’s wages. Not only will having a progressive leave policy in place be beneficial to the organization and employees, but it will help with the organization’s recruiting and retention efforts. Be sure to evaluate the current policy to make sure it is in line with current trends and the organization’s core values.
Multi-state employers have an additional layer of compliance to follow. If an organization has staff in a state with no paid family leave laws in place but operate in a state that does, such as New York or California, then the organization will need to decide to either establish a company-wide leave policy that surpasses the state and local mandated leave ordinances or manage the administration of having multiple leaves for different states. Best practices suggest offering a generous leave policy that goes above and beyond would simplify things as it would offer the same level of coverage to all staff across the organization regardless of the specific states’ requirements.
Organizations have a great deal to think about when it comes to managing leave policies. Be sure to consult with your Kiwi HR Advisor on best practices for leave policies.