Frequently asked questions
After complex negotiations involving the PSC, CUNY management, New York State, New York City and two insurance carriers, the union reached an agreement on paid family leave (PFL). CUNY faculty and professional staff – full time and part time – will have the right to take up to 12 weeks every year of paid, job-protected time off to bond with a new child or care for a family member who is ill.
PFL provides time free from work responsibilities with compensation at a percentage of normal pay. The time may be used to care for a spouse who is recovering from surgery, to take a parent to a weekly medical treatment, to stay home with a child suffering from serious physical or mental illness, to bond with a newborn child, to welcome a foster child and more.
Full information is available on the PSC website and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions can be found below.
What is New York State Paid Family Leave (PFL)?
Paid Family Leave, under New York State law, is paid, job-protected time off to bond with a new child, care for a family member with a serious health condition, assist one’s family if a member is deployed on active military service outside the United States and – in 2021 – provide care for family members who have contracted COVID-19.
Why is the PFL benefit at CUNY starting now?
Under the NY State Paid Family Leave Act, which took effect in 2018, most private-sector employers were required to implement PFL immediately. Public-sector unionized employers like CUNY, however, were not obligated to offer PFL; they have the option to offer PFL, but only if an agreement on terms consistent with the state law is negotiated with the affected union(s).
During negotiations for the current PSC contract in 2019, the PSC won agreement from CUNY management to develop a PFL benefit for both full-timers and part-timers. Developing the benefit required adapting PFL for the employment structure at CUNY, while staying within the requirements of the law. Negotiations involved the PSC, CUNY management, the city, the state, and two insurance companies. The PSC reached agreement in early March, and CUNY management, the city and the state agreed to implement the program promptly.
What kinds of family care are covered under PFL?
PFL may be used to:
- bond with a new child of any age during the first 12 months after the child’s birth or the child’s placement for adoption or foster care with the employee;
- participate in providing care for an eligible family member with a serious health condition that involves inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility, or continuing treatment or supervision by a healthcare provider;
- attend to family obligations when a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent is on active military service outside the United States or has been notified of an impending call or order of active service abroad;
- and in a new provision for 2021, PFL may be used to care for a family member who has contracted COVID-19. In some situations, PFL may also be used to provide care when a dependent child is under quarantine or isolation because of COVID-19.
Which family members with a serious health condition may I care for under PFL?
The statute defines family member as follows:
- domestic partner (including same and different gender couples; legal registration not required),
- child/stepchild and anyone for whom you have legal custody,
Siblings are not covered.
Under the statute, a “child” means a biological, adopted or foster child or stepchild of the eligible employee or his/her domestic partner; legal ward of the employee; or a child for whom the employee stands in loco parentis. A child must either be under the age of 18 or incapable of self-care because of mental or physical disability. “Parent” means a biological, foster, or adoptive parent, a parent-in-law, a stepparent, a legal guardian, or other person who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a child. “Grandchild” means a child of the employee’s child. “Grandparent” means a parent of the employee’s parent.
Who is eligible for PFL?
Paid Family Leave is available to both full-time and part-time CUNY employees represented by the PSC who meet specific requirements. Citizenship and immigration status are not factors in eligibility. The vast majority of PSC-represented employees have already achieved eligibility because of how long they have worked at CUNY.
- Teaching adjuncts and graduate assistants are eligible once they have completed 26 weeks of employment. For teaching adjuncts, each week worked counts as a week for purposes of establishing the 26 weeks of employment, regardless of how many contact teaching hours the adjunct teaches per week.
- Faculty and professional staff working 20 hours or more per week are eligible after 26 consecutive weeks of employment. Breaks between semesters during which the employee remains on payroll are counted toward the 26 consecutive weeks of employment.
- Faculty and professional staff working fewer than 20 hours per week are eligible after 175 days of employment. A workday includes any day that the employee is scheduled to work.
Are adjunct faculty, adjunct CLTs, non-teaching adjuncts, continuing ed faculty and graduate employees eligible for PFL?
Yes, provided they meet the minimum requirements for time worked above. For the first time, grad employees and the thousands of part-time employees at CUNY will have access to paid time off for parental needs or family care.
Will I be paid at my full rate while on PFL?
No. Under state law, employees on PFL are paid 67% of their average weekly wage, up to a cap of 67% of the statewide average weekly wage (SAWW). The SAWW is calculated annually by New York State; currently it is $1,450.17. The maximum weekly benefit for 2021 is 67% of this amount, or $971.61.
Because of the cap, faculty and staff who earn $75,408.84 a year or more will be paid $971.61 per week while on PFL. Consistent with state law, PFL benefits will be paid by an insurance carrier, not CUNY.
How is PFL paid for?
PFL is supported through mandatory employee contributions. The principle is that a relatively modest contribution from all PSC-represented employees creates a substantial PFL benefit that is available to all in times of family need. For 2021, the payroll deduction is 0.511% of the employee’s wages each pay period, up to a maximum of $385.34 a year. Employees earning $75,408 more will have a maximum annual deduction of $385.34, or $14.82 per biweekly paycheck as determined by New York State.
Employees may calculate their deduction using the NYS PFL deduction calculator: tinyurl.com/PFL-calculator
Are there any caps on the deductions and pay for PFL?
Yes. Both the deductions and the pay under PFL are capped, based on the statewide average weekly wage for New York calculated each year.
Can I opt out of PFL?
Only those PSC-represented employees who meet one of the following conditions may opt out of PFL:
- You work fewer than 20 hours per week and fewer than 175 days in a consecutive 52-week period. Teaching adjuncts and graduate employees will be credited one workday for every contact hour they teach per semester, with a maximum of five workdays per week.
- Or you work 20-plus hours a week but for fewer than 26 consecutive weeks in a 52-week period.
If you think you will meet one of these criteria, you may request to opt out. You will not be automatically excluded from the program. You must submit the Employee Opt-Out of Paid Family Leave Benefits Form (tinyurl.com/PFL-opt-out) to your college Human Resources Office for approval. The deductions will stop only after approval. Please see CUNY’s detailed guidelines for information on opting out.
What does it mean that my job will be “protected” if I take PFL?
Under the state law, employees who take PFL are entitled to restoration to “the position of employment held by the employee when the leave commenced or to be restored to a comparable position with comparable employment benefits.” You are also protected from retaliation if you exercise your rights to PFL.
Will my health insurance be maintained while I am on PFL?
Yes, you are entitled to continuation of your CUNY health insurance benefits and Welfare Fund benefits during PFL. If you pay a premium for health insurance through biweekly deductions from your CUNY paycheck, you will remain responsible for paying that premium while receiving PFL benefits.
How much time off does PFL provide?
PFL provides 12 weeks of leave in any 52-week period if the PFL is taken in weeklong segments, regardless of how many days per week you normally work each week.
An eligible employee may take PFL in daylong increments rather than as whole weeks. To determine the number of PFL days you are eligible for, multiply by 12 the average number of paid workdays per week you worked in the eight weeks prior to the start of PFL. For example, if you are full-time faculty member and are paid for 5 days of work a week, you are eligible for 12 times five days, or 60 days, if you take PFL in one-day increments.
If you are an adjunct or hourly employee working three days per week, you are entitled to 36 days of PFL if you take PFL in one-day increments and to 12 weeks of PFL if the leave is taken in whole weeks. (If you work three days a week, the PFL wage replacement benefit will be based on three days per week.)
If I am taking eight weeks of Paid Parental Leave (PPL) after giving birth, may I also take Paid Family Leave?
Yes. If you are eligible for paid parental leave you may take both PPL and PFL, but you cannot take the leaves at the same time. PPL must be used first, immediately after the birth or adoption of the child. If you plan to use both leaves, you must take PFL sometime within 52 weeks of the birth or placement of the child, after the conclusion of your paid parental leave.
There are some differences in coverage, however: our existing PPL does not cover placement of a foster child, and it covers adoptions only of a child five years or younger. PFL has no restrictions on the child’s age and includes foster care.
Can I take a half day of PFL if I don’t need a full day?
No. The minimum increment for PFL is a full day.
What would be an example of how I might use PFL in one-day increments?
One example: you need to provide care for a parent who is undergoing chemotherapy treatments one day a week for 15 weeks. In that case, you might elect to take PFL for that one day, or perhaps that day and the following one, every week for 15 weeks. Another example would be providing care for a child with a serious health condition requiring constant parental care. Perhaps your spouse is providing care three days a week and you need to provide care two days each week. In that case, you would take two days of PFL a week. If you are a full-time employee, you would be entitled to a total of 60 days in any 52-week period, so you could take two days a week for 30 weeks.
When do I notify my college that I wish to take PFL?
You are responsible for notifying the college that you intend to apply for PFL benefits. If the request is foreseeable, you must provide the college HR Office with at least 30 days advance notice. If the event or reason for the leave is not foreseeable, you must notify the college as soon as practicable.
All employees should follow their department procedures and keep their department chairs or supervisors informed of their plans for use of PFL.
What forms do I need to submit and to whom?
To receive PFL benefits, you must complete the appropriate Request for Paid Family Leave Form and provide the necessary documentation. Your college HR Office should provide you the forms and instructions for applying to the insurance carrier that will pay your wage-replacement benefit. If you work at a community college, your benefit will be paid while on PFL by MetLife, through its service provider AbSolve. If you work at a senior college, your benefit will be paid by The Standard Insurance Company. Employees who work at both a senior college and a community college should apply separately to both AbSolve and the Standard to receive 67% of the average weekly wage they receive from each college. The employee, not the college, is responsible for submission of all necessary forms and documentation to the appropriate insurance carrier.