How Does Paid Family Leave Compare to FMLA?

September 25, 2017
The differences between the Family Medical Leave Act and New York’s Paid Family Leave are important to know.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was put in place to protect employees’ jobs when they need to take time off for family or medical reasons. With Paid Family Leave, employees in New York will soon be able to access that type of job security while protecting income. But don’t let the “paid” part fool you — the differences between these two programs go well beyond wages. Here’s a look at how Paid Family Leave and FMLA compare, and how they work together.

Purpose and Coverage

Both programs are focused on job protection, and both provide for time off for family reasons. Key differences include the definition of family members, and the fact that FMLA can be used for an employee's own injury or illness.


 FMLANew York Paid Family Leave
Paid time offX
Bonding with a child
Caring for a seriously ill family member
Responding to needs related to a military family member's deployment, injury or illness
Recovering from one’s own injury or illnessX
Full job security: Employers must provide the same position or one comparable in wages or benefits.Exception: Some top-salaried employees may be denied job restoration if the restoration (not the absence) will cause substantial economic injury to the employer.
Family members included:
Domestic partnerX
Child under 18
Domestic partner's child under 18X
Child 18 or older but incapable of self-care
“Child” includes biological, adoptive, step and foster
Next of kin
For military care-giving only



Employees are eligible for the two programs after a waiting period, but Paid Family Leave kicks in sooner for both full-time and part-time employees. When an event qualifies for both FMLA and Paid Family Leave and an employee has met the qualification periods for both, the programs run concurrently.

 FMLANew York Paid Family Leave
Who's coveredEmployees working at any organization in the United States with 50+ employeesEmployees working in New York at a Covered Employer (all employers subject to New York Disability Benefits Law)
Who's eligibleThose employed at the business for 12 consecutive months, working at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding leaveFull-time: Those working 20+ hours/week, employed by the business for at least 26 consecutive weeks

Part-time: Those working less than 20 hours/week, employed by the business for at least 175 days



The amount of time available under each program differs for the next few years, until Paid Family Leave is fully phased in. Note, too, that there are slight differences in the reference time frame. Paid Family Leave allowances are based on a consecutive 52-week period. FMLA allowances are based on a flexible definition of 12 months.

 FMLANew York Paid Family Leave
Time provided12 weeks per 12-month period

For bonding and care, some flexibility is allowed in the employer's definition of “12-month period.” It may be a calendar year, any consecutive 12 months, etc.
8 weeks per consecutive 52-week period in 2018, gradually increasing to 12 weeks in 2021
Minimum leave increment15 minutes1 day


More Questions — and Answers

We know you'll have more questions – and we'll keep providing answers. Check back often for more resources and details. Follow The Standard on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter with the hashtag #PaidFamilyLeave, and subscribe to this blog's RSS feed to receive updated content as new information becomes available. For more details, visit:


PFL Administration / New York / Leave Law Interactions