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Paid Bereavement Leave for New Yorkers

By: Philip Qualo, J.D.,

New York employers and companies with employees residing in the state may soon have to prepare for an additional leave under the state Paid Family Leave Benefits Law (“PFL”). The New York State Legislature recently passed a bill to amend the PFL to include bereavement leave. If signed into law this bill could allow employees to take up to twelve weeks of bereavement leave in a year… with pay.

The PFL, which has been in effect since January 1, 2018, currently provides for job-protected paid time off so employees can bond with newly born, adopted or fostered child children; care for a family member with a serious health condition; or assist loved ones when a family member is called to active military service abroad.

Currently, NY employees are eligible for PFL for up to eight weeks, with coverage increasing to 10 weeks in 2019 and 2020, and 12 weeks in 2021. Leave can be taken either all at once or in full-day increments. A covered employee may take the maximum time-off benefit in any given 52-week period. PFL is funded through employee payroll contributions that are set each year to match the cost of coverage.

The recently approved bill is brief and simply adds a few sentences to the PFL to cover the death of a family member, which includes a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, spouse or domestic partner. It would allow for job-protected paid bereavement leave up to the same maximum benefit as other qualifying events under PFL, which is scheduled to reach 10 weeks at 60% of the employee’s average weekly wage, capped at 60% of NY State’s Average Weekly Wage (NYSAWW) in 2020. This leave could be taken any time within the 52-week period from the death of the relative.

As with other leaves mandated under NY PFL, the bill would require employers to continue health insurance coverage for employees on paid bereavement leave as long as the employee continues to contribute to the cost of coverage as before the leave.

The bill is currently under review by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  If signed into law, the bereavement leave amendment will not take effect until January 1, 2020.