We’re taking an exclusive look at our NY Paid Family Leave claims data to see how PFL’s most utilized benefit -- bonding leave -- has evolved over the past two years, just in time for Mother’s Day! We found some interesting trends1 – and some stats that may surprise you. The program completed its phase-in period last year; and benefits now remain at a max of 12 weeks of leave, at 67% of the employees average weekly wage (AWW), capped at 67% of the NY State Average Weekly Wage (NYSSAWW).
New York Paid Family Leave Bonding Claims are on the Rise
Let’s start with the overall trend that Paid Family Leave utilization has been on the rise: in 20212, ShelterPoint* had 20% more NY PFL claims overall (not including any COVID-related quarantine claims!). We also saw a 20% increase specifically in bonding claims in 2021 vs. 2019, with a 6% increase for bonding leave by new mothers.
NY Paid Family Leave Bonding: Moms vs. Dads
In fact, the usage rate between men and women has been going up at different proportional rates: while 6% more new moms took bonding leave, an astounding 49% more new dads took bonding leave in that same time period – a possible indicator that the matured benefit level may now be a more adequate partial salary replacement and/or that it may be becoming more widely acceptable for men to take this type of leave.
This led to a shift in the composition of bonding claims by women vs. men: the share of dads on bonding leave went up from 31 to 38% (that’s more than a third for the first time since inception!), while moms now make up just under two thirds of our bonding claims – i.e., 62% of bonding leave in 2021 compared to 69% in 2019. (Surprised the 49% jump in bonding claims from dads only translates to a 7-point share increase? We were too at first glance – this is because there is a larger pool of moms’ claims that dilute the impact dads’ claims have on the total number. Math is fun!)
The fact that more men were bonding during the first year of a baby’s life is crucial! Studies show the quality of both maternal and paternal bonds during early infancy is one of the most important predictors of a child’s eventual ability to thrive in adulthood.3 Read more about the benefits of bonding here.
Paid Family Leave for Moms During the Postpartum Period
While the postpartum period may be a joyful time, it may also be a stressful and overwhelming time for moms4. As we can conclude from the increased adoption of PFL, the program has been helping a growing number of moms in NY, yet, nationwide, there may still be financial pressures resulting in a shorter maternity leave. A survey conducted for the U.S. Department of Labor, reports that nearly 25% of U.S. moms return to work less than 2 weeks after giving birth.5
This nationwide trend may result in health risks as obstetricians generally recommend a new mom wait at least 6 weeks after giving birth to return to work, but many advise waiting 12 weeks. Returning to work too early after childbirth can cause extreme exhaustion in a new mother as well as increase the risk for postpartum anxiety and depression.6
This may be why the Paid Family Leave program is so impactful for working moms in New York, with its partial wage replacement, job protections, and 12-week leave length.
But did moms in New York take the full leave length?
The average leave length among moms in the New York Paid Family Leave program was 8.5 weeks in 2019 out of a maximum leave length of 10 weeks2, i.e. they used 85% of their available time. In 2021, the average went up to 10.2 weeks – but the maximum duration also went up, to 12 weeks. So, while moms are taking longer leave (almost 2 weeks more than in 2019), this remains proportionate at taking about 85% of their available leave time, i.e. moms are not maxing out on their leave.
An interesting side note: in 2021, less than 50% of our female claimants who took PFL bonding leave also used New York's statutory short-term disability (DBL) – even though they were entitled to receive this partial wage replacement benefit for their time recovering from childbirth. One driver for this decision could lay in the maximum DBL benefit itself: it was last increased 33 years ago in 1989 to $170 per week, and still remains at that level today.
Dads, on the other hand, took proportionally a little more time off: from 52% of leave time available to dads in 2019 (5.2 out of 10 weeks) to 57% in 2021 (6.9 out of 12 weeks) -- another indicator of a slow trend toward a more equal share of bonding with the new baby or, let’s not forget, adopted or foster child, which also qualifies as bonding leave.
Paid Family Leave Across the Country
While our article today focused on our New York PFL claims, other states were at the forefront of this type of program, such as New Jersey and California. The successes of these pioneers may have given rise to other newly-established paid family leave programs – notably Massachusetts and Connecticut. Take a look at the growth of paid family leave across the national landscape.
Perhaps the trend has been established among the states for new PFML (Paid Family & Medical Leave) programs in the absence of a national paid family leave program, with more states like OR and CO effective soon -- a trend which can only help working moms; and something to think about this Mother’s Day.
Enjoy your day, Moms!!
1For the purposes of this article, whenever we refer to mom/dads we are describing the aggregate of the moms/dads who took NY PFL through ShelterPoint -- the entire article is based on insights from our claims, and all claim comparisons are normalized for growth in insured lives over time.
2The New York Paid Family Leave program phased-in over a 4-year period from 2018-2021. In 2019 claimants received 55% of their average weekly wage, capped at 55% of the state average weekly wage or $746.41. The maximum length of leave was 10 weeks. By contrast, working women and men received 67% of the average weekly wage, up to a maximum 67% of the statewide average weekly wage, or $971.61 in 2021. The maximum leave length in 2021 was 12 weeks. Quarantine leaves were reported separately and are not reflected here. For the purposes of this article we are using year end 2021 data as the basis for comparison.
3Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/if-trump-keeps-his-promise-on-paid-family-leave-will-working-women-feel-they-can-take-it/
5https://www.thebump.com/a/moms-return-work-2-weeks-postpartum, 2012 In These Times Survey for the U.S. Department of Labor
This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not an offer of coverage or intended to provide legal counsel. Please consult with an appropriate professional for legal and compliance advice. Any information is based on the applicable statutes and regulation, and may change as regulations evolve or States issue guidance regarding Disability Benefits Law and other state disability program regulations.
*The ShelterPoint family of companies operates under the “ShelterPoint” name strictly as a marketing name, and no legal significance is expressed or implied. The ShelterPoint family of companies consists of ShelterPoint Life Insurance Company, a NY-domiciled carrier, and its wholly-owned subsidiary ShelterPoint Insurance Company, a FL-domiciled carrier, depending on the state. ShelterPoint is a registered service mark.