Hey New York freelancers, 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. Freelancers are not required to participate, but can choose to opt in by purchasing insurance coverage. However, you should know that 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.

What does paid family leave do for freelancers?

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, or addressing certain military family needs.

Under the law, parents of any gender can take time to bond with their child; if a child has two parents, each covered parent has the right to take bonding leave. Parents who welcomed a new child in 2017 can still take bonding leave in 2018, as long as they take the leave within 12 months of their child’s birth or placement.

Paid family leave can also be used to care for a seriously ill family member. This leave is LGBTQ-inclusive and can be taken to care for a child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse, domestic partner, grandchild, or grandparent when they have a serious health need. Paid family leave can also be used to take care of 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. 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.

Getting paid family leave coverage will allow you to take the time you need to be with your family, without forgoing your income.

I’m sold. How do I get covered?

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 $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.

I have more questions

You can find out more by visiting our website or calling our free and confidential legal hotline at 1-833-NEED-ABB. A Better Balance is a national legal non-profit that fights for your right to take care of yourself and your family without risking your economic security.

A Better Balance's mission is to promote equality and expand choices for women and men at all income levels so they may care for their families without sacrificing their economic security. We want to change the way America works.