Expanded Work Leave Benefits Families

Workers will be able to take up to eight weeks off as part of the new family leave program; time off will increase to 12 weeks in 2021. Benefit applies to both father and mother

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

The New York State Paid Family Leave Program, taking effect Jan. 1, 2018, will allow workers job protection for eight weeks instead of the six weeks allowed now. In 2019, workers will receive an additional two weeks of leave. In 2021, the number of weeks will top out at 12 as the new provision is completely phased in.

The maximum percent of employees’ average wage will increase incrementally as well, from 50 percent in 2018 to 67 percent in 2021.

Since the financial need to work often constrains mothers to go back to work soon after their children’s birth, receiving additional time off is a good step, according to Mary L. Beer, a registered nurse who serves as public health director for the Ontario County Public Health.

“The more time you have to bond with your child, the stronger that bond is,” Beer said. “I’m also hoping that it will lengthen the time the mother is breastfeeding. Most breastfeed until they go to work and it gets challenging.”

The World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among many medical organizations, recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months and as long as mother and child wish to continue.

Beer added that having additional time at home can also help women recoup from birthing, get organized, and establish a baby routine.

Christy Richards, clinical lactation counselor and health educator with the Ontario County Public Health, agrees that more time at home will help mothers extend breastfeeding. She said that nationwide, 81.1 percent of women and 82 percent in New York breastfeed the first three days after birth.

“As we go further out and moms go back to work, the amount of breast milk kids get plummets,” Richards said.

At 6 months, only 51.8 percent nationwide are breastfed any amount, and in New York state, it is 55.8 percent. Exclusive breastfeeding at six months is 22.3 percent nationwide and 19.7 percent in New York.

Many women who work jobs that don’t allow more than the minimum six weeks of leave can’t afford a quality electric breast pump, which can cost $300 or more.

In addition, it can take a few weeks to establish a good milk supply, learn how to help baby latch, develop a good sleeping and nursing routine and learn how to use a breast pump. Some babies take longer to accept bottled breast milk.

Moms benefit, too, from more time off. Richards said that moms need extra weeks to cope with sleep pattern disturbances, body image issues, and post partum depression issues.

“Their bodies aren’t healed even after six weeks if they have sutures in them,” Richards said. “Plus, it’s so emotionally hard to go back.”

All About Bonding

“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 your health insurance, you must continue to pay your portion of the premium cost while on Paid Family Leave.”

“Paid Family Leave coverage will be included under the disability policy all employers must carry. The premium will be fully funded by employees through payroll deductions.”

Source: www.ny.gov/new-york-state-paid-family-leave