For those of you who do not know, starting in 2018, New York state is introducing the Paid Family Leave Act (PFL). New York’s Paid Family Leave program provides wage replacement to employees to help them bond with a child, care for a close relative with a serious health condition, or help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service. Employees are also guaranteed to be able to return to their job and continue their health insurance. If you contribute to the cost of employee health insurance, you must continue to pay your portion of the premium while they are out on Paid Family Leave.

FMLA, or The Family Medical Leave Act, has been in effect since 1993 when it was enacted to provide 12 weeks of unpaid job protections for eligible employees at covered employers.

While both PFL and FMLA are designed to protect the family members of an employee, they do have key differences:  

1. Federal vs. State:

FMLA is a federal program where PFL is a state program. All businesses with 50 more employees across the United States must abide by the laws of FMLA. PFL however is a state mandated program and although it has been implemented in other states, it will begin in New York starting in January of 2018.

2. Benefits Comparison:

FMLA is an unpaid benefit, which means no monetary benefit is provided to employees who participate. PFL is a paid benefit, which will start out by providing 50% of an employee’s income capped at New York’s average weekly wage which is currently $1,305.92. By 2021 PF will cover up to 67% of an employee’s income. Payment for PFL comes from employee payroll deductions.

3. Job Protection:

Both FMLA and PFL provide job protection for eligible employees.

4. Time off:

FMLA provides employees with a maximum of 12 weeks off in increments of as little as 15 minutes. This means an employee can miss 15 minutes of work at a time for an FMLA-related event.

PFL will initially be capped at 8 weeks of time off and will increase to a maximum of 12 weeks by 2021. Time off with PFL may be used in 1-day increments.

5. Eligibility:

FMLA applies to employees who work for a company employing 50 or more employees. In order to be eligible for FMLA, an employee must work for the same employer for a minimum of 12 uninterrupted months, or 1,250 hours in the months prior to FMLA event.

PFL applies to all business in New York and other states where PFL has been applied. Any and all New York State companies employing 1 or more employees are required to participate in the PFL. To be eligible an employee must work a minimum of 20+ hours per week for a minimum of 26 consecutive weeks. If an employee is working less than 20 hours per week, they must have been working for their employer for 175 days or more to be eligible.

*Note: If an employee is eligible for both FMLA and PFL the benefits they receive will run concurrently. This means an employee cannot combine FMLA and PFL time to extend the duration of the leave.

6. Qualifying Events:


For the most part, FMLA and PFL cover the same life events. These events include bonding and caring for a newborn child, caring for a sick family member, and adjusting for a family member’s military deployment.

One major difference between FMLA and PFL is that PFL will not cover an employee who is absent from work because they need to care for themselves and a personal injury or illness they endure. FMLA will cover an employee if they personally become sick or injured.

7. Vacation & Sick Days:

Vacation and sick time benefits are left at the employer’s discretion, however all employees must be treated equally under the governing decisions of the employer. Under FMLA, an employer can force an employee to use their sick or vacation days while they are on leave. Under PFL, an employer cannot require an employee to use their sick or vacation days during leave.


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