There are a number of reasons employees may be out on leave: caring for a newborn or family member, illness or injury, and more. For employers, this brings about some challenges: ensuring the employee’s work is covered, tracking their leave, and making sure they are compensated correctly. To do this, you need to first determine why the employee is out in the first place and what type of leave they are taking.

Recent changes in legislation at the state and federal level have led to a potentially confusing maze of different types of leave. 

We know there is a lot of information out there and it’s tough to keep everything straight, so rather than try to make you an expert, we’re going to:

  1. Tell you some of the most common types of leave
  2. Share what you need to do before someone goes out
  3. Give you some examples of what happens after someone goes out on leave

Types of Leave

  • Paid Family Leave (PFL)
  • A mandatory New York State benefit implemented in 2018, this lets employees take time off with both job protection and pay.
  • Time off is allowed for an employee to care for someone else—a new child or a sick relative.
  • Employees pay for the cost via payroll deduction, and any benefit is paid by an insurance company.
  • Disability
  • A mandatory New York State benefit with a small financial benefit. Many employers supplement this with additional, non-mandated disability insurance.
  • Employees can be required to pay part, but employers have to pay the rest of the premium. Any benefit is paid by an insurance company.
  • Time off is allowed for an illness or an off-the-job injury, as long as the employee is out of work for more than 7 days.
  • Paid Sick Leave
  • New mandatory New York State benefit.
  • Implemented with a push from COVID-19, but applies to all sicknesses.
  • Most employers with under 100 employees will have to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave per year to employees.  Larger employers will need to provide up to 56 hours, though some smaller employers may not have to provide as much.
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
  • Federal benefit through 12/31/2020.
  • Allows employees to take two weeks off for their own illness or quarantine, to care for someone else with an illness or quarantine, or twelve weeks if a child’s school is closed.
  • Employer pays the employee, but gets reimbursed via payroll tax credit.

Preparing for Employee Leave

The two key components to preparing for all types of leave are knowing who is eligible and having coverage in place. 

In terms of coverage, NYS Disability and Paid Family Leave will go hand in hand, with one policy and one bill. Make sure you have a policy in place. If you aren’t sure, or don’t have this policy in place, we can help!

Paid Sick Leave and FFCRA aren’t insurance programs, but you want to make sure you have your policies clearly laid out in your handbook to prevent miscommunications or accidental discrimination. Keep in mind, employers currently providing paid vacation have the option to reclassify that as “Paid Time Off” inclusive of sick leave, which satisfies that requirement.

You need to make sure you have systems in place to track employees’ eligibility. Unfortunately, different types of leave have different eligibilities. For example, NYS Disability and NYS Paid Family Leave are both based on a waiting period from date of hire, but NYS Disability rolls over when an employee changes jobs, whereas PFL does not. Paid Sick Leave, on the other hand, can be set up as an accrual based on hours worked.

You can certainly try to keep track of eligibility in your head or on a spreadsheet, but you’re probably better off doing it through a HRIS system or a high-quality payroll partner. If you need help, we can provide advice and analysis on both of those options.

Handling Employee Leave Scenarios

There are a few types of leave that are most common and bring up some frequently asked questions. Let’s look at two:

Pregnancy and Childbirth

You’ve got an employee who’s expecting—congratulations! Now what? Well, your employee can use a constellation of protections to maximize benefits:

  • Paid Sick Leave during pregnancy for any short-term issues (bad morning sickness, etc.).
  • Immediately following the birth, NYS Disability.
  • Typically six weeks of disability benefit for a normal delivery, or eight weeks for a C-section.
  • Could also provide some period of benefit before the birth if mandated by doctor.
  • After NYS Disability runs out, Paid Family Leave kicks in.
    • Up to 12 weeks in 2021.
    • Employees have the option to take it all at once, or spread it out over the first year after the birth on an intermittent basis.

COVID-19 Situation

You’ve got an employee who thinks they have a COVID-19 exposure. Now what?

  • They get put into a mandatory quarantine. FFCRA will allow you to pay them for two weeks and get reimbursed via a payroll tax credit.
  • After a two-week quarantine, they get a positive diagnosis. Since they are out of work due to an illness, they can use their 40 hours of NY Paid Sick Leave.
  • If they have a serious, ongoing condition that keeps them from getting back to work, they could use their disability benefits.

What about an employee with school-age children?

  • If schools close, they could use their FFCRA benefits. In that case, they could get up to 12 weeks at 2/3 normal pay.
  • If their child is positively diagnosed and they run out of FFCRA benefits, they could use NY Paid Family Leave for up to an additional 12 weeks at 2/3 pay.

Employee leave can bring about a number of questions for employers and HR professionals. We are available to help navigate these issues. Feel free to reach out to us at or give us a call at 585-248-5870.