Paid Family Leave vs. Disability Benefits Law

September 18, 2017
Get ready to handle them both by understanding how they differ.

Paid Family Leave (PFL) and Disability Benefits Law (DBL) are both intended to provide for the health and well-being of New York’s eligible workers.

But while PFL will be packaged as a rider to your DBL policy, you may be surprised at how much they differ. Here’s a look at some of the key distinctions.


The main differentiator is that DBL is used for an employee’s own injury or illness, whereas PFL is used to care for, assist or bond with someone else. Specifically, an employee can use PFL to:

  • Provide care for a family member with a qualifying health condition
  • Bond with a child after birth or adoption; or to welcome a child into foster care
  • Help with family needs when someone is called into active military service

In some situations, an employee might qualify for both DBL and PFL at the same time. For example, a husband may be qualified to take disability leave after an auto accident and may also need to help his spouse who was hurt. As we point out in the Benefits section, only one type of leave can be used at a time.


For both programs, employers pay premiums to a carrier (unless they’re self-insured) and may elect to recoup costs through employee contributions. The state of New York sets the following limits.

 Disability Benefits LawNew York Paid Family Leave
Maximum Employee Contributions$0.60/week0.126% of salary up to an annual cap of $85.56 in 2018


PFL is a rider to statutory short-term disability policies (DBL) — unless you self-fund or your business is exempt — and beginning Jan. 1, 2018, employers who are required to provide DBL must provide PFL. However, employee qualifications differ.

 Disability Benefits LawNew York Paid Family Leave
Full-Time DefinitionEmployees working the number of hours that represent the company’s normal work weekEmployees working 20 or more hours per week
Full-Time DefinitionEligible after working at least four consecutive weeks for a covered employerEligible after 26 weeks of employment with the same employer*
Part-Time EmployeesCovered after working 25 work days for any covered employer(s)Eligible after working 175 days for the same employer*

*Time out on DBL does not count toward eligibility.


In rare instances where DBL and Paid Family Leave are both applicable, employees can choose which benefit to file for. They can also take both in sequence, up to each benefit’s respective limits. Here’s a look at key differences in how they can be used.

 Disability Benefits LawNew York Paid Family Leave
Payout and Limits50% of the employee’s average weekly wage to a maximum of $170/week50% of the employee’s average weekly wage in 2018 (capped at 50% of NY’s AWW), gradually increasing to 67% in 2021 (capped at 67% of NY’s AWW)
Waiting Period Before Benefit Is Paid7 days from the beginning of a non-occupational disability eventNone
Maximum Duration26 weeks per consecutive 52-week period*8 weeks in 2018, gradually increasing to 12 weeks in 2021 per consecutive 52-week period*
Job Protection While on LeaveNone'Employers must provide the same position or one comparable in wages or benefits
Benefit OffsetsBenefits can be collected while using paid vacation daysBenefits cannot be collected while out on PTO, vacation or sick days or DBL

*Total DBL and PFL leave taken cannot exceed 26 weeks in a rolling 52-week period.


PFL Administration / New York / Leave Law Interactions