New parents in New York State can experience a wide range of maternity and paternity leave outcomes – depending on their qualifications under three different laws – and whether they chose to buy supplemental insurance before mom’s conception.
The NYS Paid Family Leave (PFL) and Disability Benefits Law (DBL), and the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) each have unique eligibility criteria and offer slightly different benefits.
Buying supplemental insurance before conception closes the biggest hole – the tiny $150 per week benefit for mothers stopping work before her due date because of medical complications with her pregnancy – an event that affects 25% of parents.
NYS Maternity & Paternity Leave
Two family leave regulations (PFL and FMLA – see the next section below) interact with the New York State Disability Benefits Law (DBL) to create an uneven benefit experience for new parents on maternity and paternity leave.
Fathers, mothers suffering medical issues before birth, and government employees may all have a different answer to how long maternity leave lasts, and how much it pays.
The NYS short-term disability insurance program plays a disappointing role during any family leave of absence. The claim amount maxes out at $150 per week, which is very small compared to the PFL benefit, and what most people earn before taking time away from the job.
Women who purchase a supplemental policy do better while incapacitated. The extra coverage bumps the income replacement to a sustainable level.
However, you must start the additional policy before becoming sick, hurt, or pregnant. Warn your co-workers so that they can act in time to avoid the missed opportunity.
Short-term disability in NY offers a modest benefit to women during a pregnancy disability leave. Twenty-five percent of women experience one or more medical complications while expecting a baby. Many need to stop working months before her due date – for bed rest and other reasons.
Since the PFL program does not cover an employee’s medical issue, parents must somehow survive on the $150 per week maximum. At least the benefits for short-term disability pregnancy leave last up to 26 weeks – as small as they are.
Couples undergoing IVF treatment frequently experience this outcome months after a successful embryo transfer. High-risk multiple pregnancies often lead to extended bed rest for the mother.
Short-term disability for maternity leave in NY can continue paying benefits after the birth of your child (if you did not exhaust the 26 weeks before delivery). Keep in mind that mom remains disabled postpartum for a period while she recovers from labor and delivery.
- 6-weeks: normal vaginal birth
- 8-weeks: C-section delivery
- Longer for postpartum complications
The postpartum recovery period creates an opportunity for many new mothers. She can switch to the higher PFL benefit for her baby bonding time. If she remains disabled after the 10 or 12 weeks expire, she can then return to the lower DBL amount – if time remains.
Complete the NY short-term disability for maternity leave form DB-450. Follow the instructions carefully to avoid delays in receiving the claim checks.
Have your doctor or gynecologist complete and sign part B of the application form. Make sure to complete question 7E, providing the month, day, and year.
- The estimated delivery date for pregnancy complications before birth
- The actual delivery date for recovery from labor and delivery
Rights for Fathers
Only the PFL confers any meaningful legal rights to NYS fathers taking paternity leave – except for government employees. The two other regulations either do not apply or replicate job protections for private workers.
- The disability program does not cover dad because he does not have a medical condition preventing him from working
- PFL does provide paid paternity leave and job protections to many fathers who work in private industry
- FMLA has stricter qualifying criteria for workers in the private sector but does extend unpaid job and health insurance protections to government employees
Fathers can take paternity leave for these everyday situations under both laws – if eligible (see above). The maximum time is 12 weeks since the two programs would run concurrently if both apply.
- Care for his sick wife suffering pregnancy complications before birth
- Bond with a newborn baby, an adopted or foster child
- Care for an infant with a severe medical condition
Many new parents ask about tapping NYS unemployment compensation for help when their PFL benefits run out after 12 weeks, or the DBL payments end after 52. This scenario can occur when mom stops working months before her due date and or when her baby delivers pre-term or with a severe medical condition.
Collecting unemployment during an extended family or maternity leave in NY does not work. The requirements are mutually exclusive.
- Still employed via legal protections if applicable
- Physically able to work (no longer disabled)
- Available for employment (not caring for a sick family member)
However, filing for unemployment after the extended leave period ends is feasible in NY when a person terminates to care for a family member – but not for mom’s pregnancy disability.
Parents can lose their job when the legal protections expire after 12 or 24 weeks. Later, new moms and dads may become eligible after their caretaking duties cease (when they are available for employment).
State law does not disqualify workers who separate from employment for a “compelling family reason,” which includes “the illness or disability of a member of the individual’s immediate family.” Note that this does not include an employee’s medical condition.
NYS Family Leave Laws
Two family leave laws pertain to new parents in New York State. Both provide job and health insurance protections during the time mom and or dad are away from the job.
However, this is where the similarities end, and the stark differences for fathers, government employees, and mothers experiencing pregnancy complications begin.
Paid Family Leave NY
The NYS Paid Family Leave (PFL) regulation offers significant income, job, and health insurance benefits to new parents who enjoy a healthy pregnancy and childbirth experience. However, when combined with the two other acts, the law has unexpected outcomes when mom suffers pregnancy complications.
- Pay levels drop sharply (See Short-Term Disability)
- Length of job and insurance protections can double (See FMLA)
It is essential to compare the NYPFL maximum benefit and eligibility rules to its DBL counterpart. Many women who give birth will tap into both programs at different points during maternity leave.
|# Weeks||% Pay||Weekly Max|
|PFL – 2019||10||55%||$746.41|
|PFL – 2020||10||60%||$840.70*|
|PFL – 2021||12||67%||$938.75*|
* Based on 2018 SAWW of $1,401.17
Mothers cannot utilize the higher PFL benefit during her pregnancy disability before birth because she is not caring for a sick family member. Therefore, she must rely on the lower DBL amount until after her labor and delivery.
The most notable NY Paid Family Leave employer requirement relates to private companies and government agencies. This seemingly minor distinction can have a significant impact if it affects you.
- Private companies with one or more employees must buy the insurance
- Public (government) agencies can opt-in voluntarily into the program
Complete two NY Paid Family Leave forms when submitting your claim for benefits. Read the instructions carefully to make sure that you give your employer proper notice (30 days in many instances), and send the paperwork to the correct insurance company.
- Form PFL-1: Request for Paid Family Leave
- Form PFL-2: Bonding Certification
Ask your employer which private company they chose to issue the compliant policy. The Worker’s Compensation Board also manages an online insurer finder tool.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal regulation that applies to eligible employees in NYS who work for covered employers. FMLA can extend unpaid job and health insurance protections for women giving birth to children for up to an additional 12 weeks.
- FMLA covers an employee’s disability
- PFL excludes an employee’s medical condition
Expectant women can often stack the two sets of rights sequentially because PFL does not apply when while mom is out of work for her pregnancy-related disability. She can double the length of job and health insurance legal protections.
- 12 Weeks FMLA: complications before delivery and recovery from childbirth
- 10 – 12 Weeks: PFL to bond with a newborn baby
On another note, fewer workers in private industry qualify for FMLA, while more government employees do.
|Employers||Most private employers |
Public employers may opt-in
One or more employees
|Public and private employers |
50 or more employees in a 75-mile radius
|Employees||After 26 consecutive weeks of employment if regularly working 20 or more hours per week |
After 175 days worked if regularly working less than 20 hours per week
|12 months of employment |
1,250 hours of work in the 12 months preceding leave
Covered employees in NY complete the same FMLA forms as the rest of the country does, since this is a federal regulation. The US Department of Labor hosts multiple FMLA forms. Choose the certification paperwork that pertains to your qualifying reason for unpaid job protections.
- Health Care Provider for Employee’s Serious Health Condition (for women taking time off before birth due to complications of pregnancy)
- Health Care Provider for Family Member’s Serious Health Condition (for government workers not covered by PFL)