Legally speaking, maternity and parental leave has two parts:
New York is one of a small handful of states that gives employees the right to paid time off for pregnancy disability leave. And New Yorkers also benefit from one of the country's most generous parental leave laws, which gives you the right to up to 12 weeks of paid, job-protected time off to bond with a new child.
In addition, the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives employees in all states the right to take unpaid leave for these reasons. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) also prohibits your employer from discriminating against you because of your pregnancy—which might give you the right to take time off work in some cases.
This article will discuss your maternity or paternity leave rights in New York, including when you have the right to paid time off and how to apply for paid family leave.
Like employees in other states, if you work in New York, you probably have the right to take time off while you're unable to work due to pregnancy under the FMLA and/or the PDA. But unlike workers in many other states, in New York, you also have the right to get paid during this time off.
Under the Disability Benefits Law (DBL), New York law requires employers to provide short-term disability coverage to their employees. This short-term disability insurance provides up to 26 weeks of partial wage replacement (50% of your wages, up to a weekly cap) when you're temporarily unable to work due to any disabling condition—including pregnancy.
(This short-term disability insurance doesn't cover work-related injuries or illnesses. Those are covered by workers' compensation instead.)
When you need time off work due to pregnancy, you're eligible for short-term disability payments in New York if:
In addition, you must be under the care of a medical provider who must certify that you're unable to work due to your pregnancy or recovery from delivery. Both physical and mental health conditions are eligible for disability benefits, as long as the conditions are related to your pregnancy or post-partum recovery.
You can only collect these short-term disability benefits while you're actually unable to work due to pregnancy or childbirth—usually four weeks before your due date and six weeks after giving birth. If you can't work for more than four weeks before giving birth or continue to be unable to work for longer than six weeks after, you might need additional medical documentation to support your claim. But you should still be eligible for disability benefits.
Learn more about New York's pregnancy disability leave rules.
The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of off work in a one-year period for pregnancy and parenting leave (see below). If you qualify, you can use the FMLA to take time off when you can't work because of your pregnancy and childbirth. You can also take FMLA leave for prenatal care, including routine check-ups and doctor visits.
If you qualify for both New York PFL and FMLA, your employer can require you to take PFL and FMLA leave at the same time (overlapping)—meaning you wouldn't be able to take 12 weeks of PFL parenting leave followed by 12 weeks of FMLA leave. But your employer must first notify you that you qualify for both types of leave and that they will run together.
Learn more about your right to use FMLA leave for pregnancy and childbirth.
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) doesn't state that employers must give pregnant employees time off work. But the PDA does require employers to treat employees who can't work due to pregnancy the same as employees who are temporarily disabled for other reasons.
For example, if your company lets employees take time off for temporary disabilities like broken bones or heart attacks, then you must be allowed to take the same time off when if you're unable to work because of your pregnancy.
In addition to the federal and state laws that protect your right to take time off for pregnancy and childbirth, New York has a family leave law that offers parents up to 12 weeks of paid leave to spend time bonding with a new child. This paid parental leave also covers adoptions and foster care placements.
Under New York's Paid Family Leave (PFL) law, you have the right to take 12 weeks of paid, job-protected leave to bond with a new child (or care for a family member with a serious health condition).
During your paid family leave, you'll receive 67% of your average weekly wage, up to a cap of 67% of the current statewide average weekly wage, which varies by year. For 2023, New York's average weekly wage is $1,688.19, which means the maximum weekly benefit you'll receive during PFL is $1,131.08.
You're eligible for PFL in New York after 26 weeks of employment if you work 20 hours per week or more. If you work fewer than 20 hours per week, you're eligible after 175 days of work.
You can't take PFL benefits and short-term disability benefits at the same time. But you can take them back-to-back. So, once you've recovered from the temporary disability caused by your pregnancy and recovery from childbirth, you can begin your PFL.
You also can't take more than 26 weeks of combined short-term disability and PFL benefits in a 52-week period. For instance, if you use 16 weeks of short-term disability for pregnancy and childbirth, you'll have up to 10 weeks of PFL you can still take during that benefit year.
To apply for PFL, you must first notify your employer—at least 30 days before the start of your leave, if possible. If it's not practical or possible to give that much advance notice, you should notify your employer as soon as possible.
Next, you'll need to fill out the necessary forms and collect the required documents, which you then have to submit to your employer's insurance carrier, within 30 days of the start of your leave.
Forms you'll need. You'll need to fill out two forms:
These forms should be available from your employer, or you can access them online.
Required documents. If you're the child's birth mother, you'll need to submit a copy of the child's birth certificate or an original copy of a certification of birth from a health care provider.
If you're a parent other than the birth mother, you'll need to submit one of the following:
You can also submit the same documentation as the birth mother as well as a second document verifying your relationship to the birth mother (such as a marriage certificate or a domestic partner document).
Final PFL request package. Submit your completed request package, including the documentation and forms, to your employer's insurance carrier.
You can find more detailed instructions on how to apply for paid maternity or paternity leave in New York on the state's PFL website.
The FMLA also gives you the right to take unpaid time off to bond with a new child, whether biological, adopted, or foster. This is part of your total 12-week FMLA annual leave entitlement. So, if you use two weeks of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you'll have ten weeks left to use for post-partum recovery and parenting leave.
During your time off, you have the right to continue your health insurance under the same terms as when you were working. So to keep it going, you'd need to continue paying any share of the premium you would've had to pay if you were still working.
When your leave is over, you have the right under both the FMLA and New York's paid family leave law to be reinstated to your job, or a comparable position. A comparable position would have the same:
Learn more about what you should expect when returning to work after FMLA leave.
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about maternity and paternity leave in New York:
Answer: Paid family leave can only begin after your child's birth. It's not available for prenatal conditions. So if you use PFL for maternity leave, it can begin immediately after your child is born.
But if you're eligible for short-term disability benefits (under the DBL), you can choose to use your DBL benefits first—to recover from childbirth—and use your paid family leave benefits after that (up to 12 months after your child is born).
Answer: Maternity leave to care for a new child under the New York Paid Family Leave law is 12 weeks. But new mothers in New York are usually also entitled to take short-term disability while recovering from childbirth. This is usually about 6 weeks, but can be longer if your condition warrants it. So it's typical for paid maternity leave in New York to last 18 weeks, or about 4 months.
But if your medical condition warrants additional time off work, your combined short-term disability and PFL benefits for childbirth can last up to 26 total weeks (per year).
Answer: Yes. Both New York law and the federal FMLA allow both parents—regardless of gender—to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected time off to bond with a new child (including adopted and foster children). And under NYPFL, paternity leave in New York is paid time off.
Answer: No. You can take parental leave intermittently in New York. Both NYPFL and FMLA leave can be taken intermittently. And you can collect NYPFL in one-day increments, up to the maximum of 12 weeks of benefits per year.
Answer: When you take paid family leave in New York, you'll receive 67% of your average weekly earnings up to the maximum benefit amount ($1,131.08 for 2023). So, if your average weekly earnings are $1,000, you'll get $670 per week in NYPFL benefits. You can estimate your weekly benefit amount using the NYPFL calculator.
Updated March 9, 2023
Need a lawyer? Start here.