PFL for Qualifying Military Exigencies
September 27, 2017
This January, the Paid Family Leave (PFL) program goes into effect in the state of New York, providing private sector employees the ability to take paid time off to bond with a new child, care for a seriously sick family member, or address family matters due to a military deployment.
If you are a part of a military family, you’ve most likely experienced the challenges that come with your loved one’s deployment and the pressures it can put on your life. The military leave portion of PFL has been designed to help combat the unique challenges that come with having a family member in the military. Here are some of the most important details you need to know about the benefit, eligibility, and process of the PFL program, specifically for military events.
PFL provides financial support, as well as job security, for those families who need to take paid leave due to a family member being deployed by the military.
If you are an eligible employee and are in need of taking time off for a military exigency, PFL provides up to 50% of your salary (capped at 50% of NYSAWW*) starting in 2018 for up to 8 weeks during a 12-month period. The benefit increases each year up to a maximum of 67% of your salary (capped at 67% of NYSAWW*) and 12 weeks of leave time in 2021.
Since PFL can be taken in daily increments, it provides flexibility based on your unique situation. Additionally, there is no waiting period for utilizing these benefits, you are able to use these benefits immediately if you have a qualifying military event.
*Current NYSAWW (NYS Average Weekly Wage) is $ 1,305.92 as of March 31, 2017. NY Department of Labor releases the updated NYSAWW every March 31.)
Time Allowed For a Qualifying Military Event
The maximum benefit length for qualifying exigencies related to military leave will start at 8 weeks (capped at 56 days for intermittent leave) in a 52-week period in 2018, and gradually increase to 12 weeks (capped at 60 days for intermittent leave) in a 52-week period in 2021. The 52-week period begins on the first day you take leave, and is independent of the calendar year and your policy year. The benefit amount that is in effect at the time the leave begins applies to the full duration of the paid leave event — even if a new calendar year with increased benefit levels falls within that period.
Some specific exigencies have their own specific maximum durations based on underlying FMLA definitions, which you’ll see below.
While PFL does rely on FMLA guidelines and definitions for qualifying military events, there are some differences. With FMLA, you may be able to take unpaid leave in 15-minute increments (depending on your employer’s policy). Under PFL, employees may take paid leave in daily or weekly increments.
The maximum time taken applies to all paid leave events you take during the 52-week period. So, if you take two weeks for your family member’s Rest and Recuperation (R&R) visit home, you still have six more weeks left that could be used for another 15-day R&R period, or any other qualified leave events like bonding with a new child or caring for an ill family member — so long as the overall leave does not exceed the maximum amount of PFL available (8 weeks in 2018 to 12 weeks in 2021).
So who is eligible to utilize this program? Any employee who has to attend to family matters while the family member has a “qualifying military event.” Under PFL, qualifying military events occur when a spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent is:
- On active duty
- Called to active duty status
- Notified of an impending call to active duty
Note that these definitions are slightly different based on the branch of the armed forces your family member is serving. For members of the Regular Armed Forces, duty counts as deployment with the Armed Forces to a foreign country.
For members of the Army Reserve and National Guard, qualifying events include:
- Deployment with the Armed Forces to a foreign country or,
- Placement under a call or order to active duty during situations like national emergencies.
An important thing to know about using PFL for military events is that the new PFL regulations are intentionally high-level regarding qualifying events. They were written that way so that the legislation follows the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guidelines regarding qualifying military events. As a result, if anything changes at the federal level with regard to FMLA and military time off, the same changes will apply to PFL.
Because it can be challenging to determine which types of activities are covered by PFL - here is a breakdown of typical use-cases, and what they include:
- Deployments with notice of 7 days or less: This allows families time to make arrangements for their family if the service member is called to leave on short notice.
- Financial and legal arrangements: When service members are deployed, or called to deployment, this qualifying event allows families to make arrangements regarding power of attorney, enrolling in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), obtaining military identification cards, and any other activities that allow an immediate family member to act as the service member’s representative while they are deployed.
- Counseling: PFL can be used for family members to receive professional treatment (provided by a mental health specialist, as opposed to a general practitioner) for the psychological stress that often accompanies active duty deployment.
- Military events and related activities: Attending military-related ceremonies, family support programs, and/or informational briefings about deployment are all considered qualifying events under PFL.
- Childcare and school activities: PFL provides time off to attend to additional or urgent childcare needs due to a deployment notice, whether that’s school enrollment, transferring, or attending day care meetings and care planning activities.
It does not cover taking leave to perform ongoing every-day childcare (i.e., becoming the primary caregiver during the deployment) or routine school events (such as parties or plays).
The employee taking paid family leave does not need to be directly related to the military member’s child – children of the employee’s spouse, child, and parent called to/on active duty qualify.
- Parental care: In much the same way PFL allows time to make care arrangements for children, caring for a service member’s parent(s) is also covered. For example, if a service member’s parent needs non-routine or emergency care, or needs to be transferred to an assisted living facility, it would be covered. Additional care activities like attending a hospice meeting or facility tour will also be considered qualifying for a military leave event.
The employee taking paid family leave does not need to be directly related to the military member’s parent – parents of the employee’s spouse, child, and parent called to/on active duty qualify.
- Rest and Recuperation: When a service member has been put on “Rest and Recuperation leave,” during covered active duty, his or her family members may use PFL to spend time with them. The R&R duration is limited to 15 days per occurrence of your available PFL time.
- Post-deployment activities: For 90 days after a service member returns home from deployment, PFL will cover activities such as arrival ceremonies, reintegration briefings/events, and other official military ceremonies or programs. In the case of the death of the family member, PFL would cover all of the time needed to make arrangements for the family and funeral ceremonies.
- Additional service related activities: Employers have the ability to accept other qualifying leave events related to military service, depending on the timing and duration of the leave. If you don’t see your specific need listed above, check with your employer and they will be able to assist.
PFL to Care for My Injured Military Family Member
Can PFL be utilized to care for your injured or ill military family member? Yes — as long as the ill or injured service member requiring care meets the PFL definition of seriously ill, since care is provided under the “providing care” qualifying event rather than a military-specific qualifying event.
This structure protects and delegates time for family members to spend dealing with the hardship of deployment and/or preparing for deployment. Providing care if your loved one is seriously wounded or becomes ill in the line of duty is covered by PFL under an entirely separate qualifying event, so military families will have additional options for handling the burdens of service.
Notification of Employer
As with all qualifying events for PFL, at least a 30-day notice is required to take leave; however in situations where short notice military leave is concerned, you must provide notice “as soon as practicable” (generally considered to be the very next day, or the next business day). The notice should also include the listed reason for leave (call to active duty, etc.) and the anticipated length of the leave, if foreseeable.1
Along with claim forms that will be released later this year, you will need to provide a number of documents for your qualifying military event. The first time you request leave for a qualifying military event, you may be required to provide a copy of the military member’s active duty orders, or other documents issued by the military that includes the service member’s active duty status and details of the service. This information will only need to be provided once to the employer or carrier, unless another service member in your family is called to active duty.
Other documents include US Department of Labor Military Family Leave Certification (Federal Military Leave Form), Copy of Military Duty Papers, and other documents that relate to the type of qualifying event — like ceremony details or R&R orders.2 Information that will need to be provided as part of your completed claim include:
- Statement or description of appropriate facts about the qualifying event for which you are requesting PFL.
- Approximate dates for the event and for time off. This includes start and end dates for any leave that lasts over a continuous period of time.
- If the leave is for an intermittent period of time, the frequency and duration of the leave time should be noted.
- If the qualifying leave event involves a third party, providing contact details for that third party as well as a nature of the meeting (ie, setting up childcare, meeting with a lawyer, etc.).
- If the qualifying event is for R&R, a copy of the R&R orders and other related documentation from the military, as well as dates, should be provided.
We recommend that you make copies of all your forms and documentation for your own personal records. This will help smooth over any hiccups during the process should information be found incomplete or missing.
If you provide the appropriate information and documentation for your leave, you should be covered. If your leave involves a third party, however, your carrier or employer may contact that third party to ensure that a meeting is scheduled to take place and that the nature of the meeting is as you described in your documentation. They may also contact the Department of Defense to request verification of the military member’s active duty status.
It is ultimately your responsibility to submit all the necessary documentation for your claim. New York State will release claim forms later this year. We anticipate a general form supplemented by a leave-type-specific form.
Benefits will be paid by the insurance carrier to the employee within 18 days of filing a completed claim (unless the employee receives salary continuance and the employer is reimbursed).
Having a family member in the military can be challenging. But with the assistance of PFL, you will have the time you need to take care of yourself and your family, without having additional fears of losing your job or undue financial stress. Find more details on coverage and eligibility, or send us questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal counsel. Please consult with an appropriate professional for legal and compliance advice. Any PFL information is as of the blog post’s date stamp; it is based on the applicable statutes and regulation, and may change as regulations evolve or NY State issues guidance regarding Paid Family Leave regulations. Got more questions? Email us at email@example.com