July 1st, is a significant day for millions of workers who will begin enjoying the protections of recently enacted workplace leave laws around the country. For low-wage workers who currently do not have a single paid sick day, these laws will ensure they no longer have to worry that catching a cold or taking a sick child to the doctor could mean not making rent or even losing their job.
Hey self-employed New Yorkers, have you heard about paid family leave? New York passed an exciting paid family leave law last year, with benefits under the law beginning on January 1, 2018.
If you are an independent contractor, freelancer, own your own business (including an LLC, LLP, or sole proprietorship), or otherwise work for yourself rather than an employer, you may be considered “self-employed” under the law.
Self-employed people are not required to participate, but can choose to opt in by purchasing insurance coverage. If you want to opt in, you should do so before January 1—if you wait, you’ll need to pay for insurance for two years before you can use your benefits.
The paid family leave program pays you when you are not working because you are taking time to bond with a new child (including adopted and foster children), caring for a seriously ill family member (child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse, domestic partner, grandchild, or grandparent) or addressing certain military family needs.
In 2018, the program will pay you for up to 8 weeks while you aren’t working because you’re taking time to be with family in one of these situations. The payments will be about half of your average income, up to a maximum of about $650 per week. After 2018, both the number of weeks during which you can get paid and the percentage of your income you receive while you aren’t working will increase.
To opt in, all you need to do is buy an insurance policy that includes both disability and paid family leave coverage. You can decide whether to get state minimum disability coverage or a more robust disability plan. Your paid family leave insurance premium will be a small percentage of your income, but will not exceed an average of $1.65 per week (and many people will pay even less). Disability coverage will be a small additional cost. The State of New York has a list of approved insurance carriers here.
If you want to opt in, you must buy coverage before January 1, 2018 or face a 2-year waiting period. During the waiting period, you will have to pay for insurance coverage but will not be able to use benefits. If you recently became self-employed, you have 26 weeks from when you first became self-employed to purchase coverage before the 2-year waiting period kicks in.
This blog post is part of an on-going series of know-your-rights information on New York’s paid family leave law. This post does not address all aspects of the law and does not constitute legal advice.