Stephanie Haber
/ Categories: PFL In Comparison

PFL Versus DBL

*New information for 2020!*

To see an updated breakdown of the differences between PFL and DBL, click here.

June 8, 2017 - Updated June 26, 2018

pfl v. dbl

Today we’re taking  a closer look at another benefit extended to most employees in New York State: Statutory short-term disability (commonly referred to as DBL, short for Disability Benefits Law).  This benefit is important to understand and look at in conjunction with the Paid Family Leave benefit, since NY PFL is typically provided in form of a rider (i.e., add-on coverage) to DBL. We’ll highlight some of the essential features, commonalities, and differences between these two required NY benefits.

But first, what is DBL?

DBL provides benefits for employees who are unable to work due to a non-job-related illness/disability or injury that happened off the job. For a maximum of 26 weeks, eligible employees can receive cash benefits of 50% of their average weekly wage, capped at the current maximum benefit of $170/week.  When using this benefit the employee has to be certified “disabled” by a physician, and unable to perform any normal job duties. For DBL purposes, recovering from the birth of a child would count as such.


How PFL and DBL Relate

When Paid Family Leave went into effect on January 1, 2018, it was added as a mandatory rider to existing DBL policies, so any Covered Employer under DBL is also required to provide PFL to their eligible employees. Since PFL is a rider to DBL, this also means that both DBL and PFL must be from the same insurance carrier.

Employers who are exempt from DBL, such as municipalities, can choose to provide stand-alone Paid Family Leave.

Sole proprietors and partners in LLCs/LLPs can get voluntary Paid Family Leave coverage similar to how they obtained their voluntary DBL coverage.

So, how do these benefits compare?


PFL Expert Tip:
The key differentiator between PFL and DBL is that DBL is taken for YOUR OWN injury or illness, whereas Paid Family Leave is taken to care for or bond with someone else, for example, a member of your immediate family like a child or parent, or bonding with a newborn after delivery.


Eligibility requirements are quite different between DBL and PFL:




Full-time definition

Persons working the amount of hours that constitute the specific employer’s normal work week

Persons working 20+ hours/week

Full-time employees

Worked at least 4 consecutive weeks for any Covered Employer(s)

Employed at least 26 consecutive weeks at their current Covered Employer

Part-time employees

Completed at least 25 work days at any Covered Employer(s)

Completed at least 175 work days at their current Covered Employer

Personal or domestic employees

Work at least 40 hours a week (if they work 30 or more days in a calendar year for the same domestic employer)

Transferability of qualification period

Yes, if an employee changes jobs from one Covered Employer to another, their time worked at the previous employer counts.

However, if their previous job was at an exempt employer without voluntary coverage, they have to satisfy the qualification period at their new Covered Employer.



(If an employee changes jobs from one Covered Employer to another, their time worked at the previous employer does not count.)

What counts towards the qualification period

Approved vacation, personal, sick time

Other time away from work but still considered an employee as long as their PFL coverage is paid for

What does not count towards the qualification period


Time out on DBL



Here’s how DBL and PFL benefits compare:      




Benefit payouts

50% of your average weekly wage (AWW) to a maximum of $170/week

PFL provides 50% of your AWW capped at 50% of NYSAWW in 2018 and gradually increased to up to 67% of the AWW capped at 67% of NY’s AWW once fully implemented in 2021.

Estimate what you can expect while out on PFL with our easy Benefit Estimator tool!

Waiting period

7 days (no benefit is paid for the first 7 days of your illness or disability)

None (your benefits kick in on the first day of the qualified leave event)


Maximum leave duration

26 weeks in a consecutive 52-week period

8 weeks beginning in 2018 and increasing to a maximum of 12 weeks in 2021 in a consecutive 52-week period

You can’t take DBL and PFL at the same time, i.e., receive benefits for both concurrently. They have to be taken in sequence. And if you qualify for both, the combined duration cannot exceed 26 weeks in a consecutive 52-week period.

Job protection while on leave


Yes, even for employers with less than 50 employees.

Employers must provide the same position, or one comparable in wages and benefits, to employees returning from PFL.

Benefit offsets

Benefits are not reduced by PTO such as vacation time, i.e. you can collect DBL benefits while using paid vacation days.

You can’t receive PFL benefits while out on PTO (Paid Time Off) or using full days of sick/vacation time.


Here are some other noteworthy items to compare:




How it’s funded

Employer pays the premium to the carrier (unless self-insured) and has option to recoup cost through employee contributions (capped at state-set maximum contribution levels).


Use our handy PFL Premium Estimator tool.

Maximum employee contributions


The 2018 maximum contribution: 0.126% of the employee’s annualized wages capped at the annualized New York State Average Weekly Wage (NYSAWW) of $67,907.84 per year;*  which means the maximum annual premium to be charged to an employee for Paid Family Leave is $85.56 per year. 
Read more about PFL withholdings here.

*The PFL rate is determined each year by September 1 by the NYS Department of Financial Services - starting 2018  

**NY Department of Labor releases the annually updated statewide AWW by March 31.

Employer reimbursement

Yes, if the employee receives salary continuation while out.

Claim determination turn-around time allowed by law

 4 business days after the latter of:

  • The 14th day of being out on DBL, or
  • Receipt of the claim (fully completed form with all required documentation and statements)

18 days after a fully completed claim is received.

We have handy roadmaps here that illustrate what’s required for each type of leave to help make sure employees have all the necessary information before submitting.



DBL and PFL Bonding Leave

The most common reason employees have used Paid Family Leave is to welcome a new addition to their family with bonding leave. And since the qualifying events surrounding motherhood often overlap situations covered by both DBL and Paid Family Leave, it’s important to outline where PFL Bonding Leave will start and where DBL would end. 

For example, a condition like bed rest for an expecting mother would be covered under DBL, since it’s the mother’s own “disability.” She would be able to file a DBL claim for the time she was on bedrest prior to birth and recovery after birth (typically 6 weeks for normal delivery and 8 weeks for C-section). When her child is born, Mom can choose whether to use DBL for her recovery first or use Paid Family Leave for bonding with her newborn.  Learn more about all the options available to a new mom here.

PFL Expert Tip:
Postpartum Depression is considered a pregnancy-related complication and is covered under DBL.


Both DBL and PFL play important roles in providing for the health and well-being of New York’s workers, and both will continue to work in tandem to support employee needs outside the workplace. 

Have more questions on DBL and PFL, email our experts at:

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