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, 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 Beth Carey, birth and DONA-certified post-partum doula and part of Western New York Doulas.

“I think that moms need more time to recuperate post-partum,” Carey said. “We’re one of the few cultures that doesn’t support mom post-partum. I am doula to women from India and other countries and their moms and friends come to support them.”

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

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

Lori Gehl, childbirth educator, doula and child birth midwife assistant with Western New York Childbirth, said that extra time will benefit moms and babies, especially with breastfeeding mothers.

Nationwide, 81.1 percent of women and 82 percent in New York breast feed the first three days after birth.

At 6 months, only 51.8 percent nationwide are breastfed any amount, and in New York state, it is 55.8 percent. Exclusive breast feeding at 6 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. New moms need extra weeks to cope with sleep pattern disturbances, body image issues, and post partum depression issues.

“It’s healthy for both of them, no doubt,” Gehl said. “Going through childbirth is stressful on the body. We’re able to handle it, but it’s important to have time to recover and cuddle the newborn baby. That’s what your body needs: time to hang out and get to know each other.”

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