How companies can prepare for changing family leave requirements

woman working on laptp at a desk with a baby on her lap

The current patchwork of state mandates present a challenge for employers striving to treat their multi-located workforce consistently where leave is concerned. Policies can be inconsistent from state to state, presenting a conundrum for organizations with employees in multiple states. Is there a better approach? Organizations will need to balance cost and concerns about employee relations across all their locations to answer that question.

Now the leave landscape shifts again with New York State poised to implement the most generous paid family leave policy of all. If this is the final, necessary nudge toward something more universal, how should employers without paid leave begin preparing?

Your 5-step checklist toward paid family leave

In a changing family-leave landscape, companies should consider the following:

  1. Research — Understand the current legal and regulatory landscape and trends in time-off and parental leave programs
  2. Develop objectives and options for consideration
    • Involve the right people — including legal and finance — in setting objectives for potential policy changes
    •  Determine options that can align with those objectives
  3.  Evaluate the policy change options across key areas of impact
    • Impact to existing employees
    • Impact on attractiveness of employee value proposition for recruiting
    • Policy cost
    • Administrative cost
    • Anticipated need for future change, given legal and regulatory environment
  4. Confirm recommended direction with senior leadership
  5. Implement — Update policy documentation, administrative process, and communicate the good news to managers and employees

Who’s family?

State paid family leave regulations are generally more inclusive than the FMLA, and usually include extended family members, even grandparents and siblings in some states. Domestic partners (both opposite and same-sex) are also considered family in many states, even though federal law now gives same-sex couples the option to legally marry.

 What makes New York leave different

On January 1, 2018, New York will join California, New Jersey and Rhode Island as the fourth state to provide paid family leave. This benefit will be incorporated under the state’s statutory disability policy and is more generous than the six-week leave proposed by the Trump Administration. Employees have eight weeks available in the first year, with leave time increasing to a maximum of 12 weeks over the next four years.
It follows a growing trend of providing guaranteed wage replacement so that employees have time to bond with a new child, provide care for a close relative or relieve family pressures related to military service. Grandparents and domestic partners are considered family, too, per the new policy.

What New York law specifically offers

Any part- or full-time employee working in New York for 26 weeks and at least 175 days is eligible for paid family leave outside of their paid-time-off allowance. Employees may choose to use sick and/or vacation time to supplement their leave income. Leave may be used for:

  • The birth or adoption of a child
  • Caring for a close relative with a serious health condition
  • Active duty deployment

New York State’s paid leave legislation brings additional momentum to this human resources issue. Whether it’s a game changer for other states, more organizations, or even the federal government remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

Further reading: HR Corner: New York Paid Family Leave: Is it a game changer?

Willis Towers Watson Employee Benefits Consultant Daniel Margolis

Daniel Margolis is a senior consultant in the employee benefits practice at Willis Towers Watson.

Categories: Employee Wellbeing | Tags: , ,

One Response to How companies can prepare for changing family leave requirements

  1. Cheryl says:

    A year or so ago I read an article about AXA. In the article it was noted that although the Company was legally “required” to provide a certain benefit in one country, in the interest of fairness, they broadened the benefit to apply to all employees in all countries. I do not remember the specifics of the benefit, but I was impressed at their integrity.

    I think the same should hold true for ALL Companies. And certainly, within the USA the more broad requirement should be provided to all.

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