What are New York's laws on maternity and paternity leave?

Understanding New York's Maternity and Paternity Leave Laws

Navigating the complexities of maternity and paternity leave in New York can be challenging for expectant parents. The state has established several laws and programs to support families during this critical time. This article delves into the specifics of New York's maternity and paternity leave policies, providing a clear understanding of the rights and benefits afforded to new parents.

New York State Paid Family Leave (PFL)

In 2016, New York took a significant step forward by enacting the Paid Family Leave (PFL) law, one of the most comprehensive family leave programs in the nation. Under PFL, which fully came into effect in 2018, employees are entitled to take time off to bond with a new child, care for a family member with a serious health condition, or address certain military family needs.

Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave while receiving 67% of their average weekly wage, capped at 67% of the statewide average weekly wage. Both mothers and fathers, including adoptive and foster parents, can apply for PFL, which ensures job protection and continuation of health insurance benefits.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) also applies in New York, granting eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period for similar reasons as PFL. However, FMLA does not offer paid benefits and has distinct eligibility requirements, such as working for an employer with 50 or more employees for at least a year.

It's important to note that while FMLA can run concurrently with PFL, it provides additional protections such as maintaining group health benefits during leave.

New York City's Comprehensive Legislation

New York City has taken additional measures to support working parents. The city's laws mandate that employers with four or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions unless it would cause undue hardship for the business. This includes providing light duty, rest breaks, and assistance with manual labor.

Additionally, under the New York City Human Rights Law, employers must allow new mothers time to express breast milk for up to three years following childbirth.

Historical Context and Evolution

The establishment of these laws came after years of advocacy from labor groups and family rights organizations. New York's progressive stance on family leave traces back to early movements advocating for women's labor rights. The state's current policies reflect an evolving understanding of the importance of work-life balance and the economic and social benefits of supporting families during major life transitions.


New York's maternity and paternity leave laws represent a significant commitment to supporting working families. With PFL, FMLA, and local statutes working in tandem, New Yorkers have access to some of the most robust protections in the country. As societal values continue to shift towards greater work-family integration, these laws serve as models for other states considering similar legislation.