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New York Expands Paid Leave and Break Obligations for Employers

Jun 4, 2024

Deskless Worker
Paul Kramer

Paul Kramer

Director of Compliance

New York has a long history of being an employee-friendly state having provided strong worker protections, a high minimum wage, and extensive anti-discrimination laws. These progressive measures not only prioritize the well-being of employees but have also, in some cases, set a precedent for other states to follow. 

This trend was evidenced again in the New York State enacted budget for the 2025 fiscal year which amended New York law by adding a paid prenatal leave entitlement for employees, converting unpaid lactation breaks for workers into paid breaks, and continuing COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave for more than a year by providing a sunset date of July 31, 2025, for this pandemic-related leave.  

Failing to provide adequate leave accommodations for workers can lead to severe consequences, and as such it is vital for organizations to understand when their employees become eligible for leave under these new laws. This article will cover key aspects of these expanded paid time-off obligations that employers should know about. 

Paid Prenatal Leave

New York State is the first state to enact a standalone entitlement for paid prenatal leave. Effective January 1, 2025, New York employers will be required to provide 20 hours of paid prenatal leave in a 52-week calendar period to pregnant employees for healthcare services relating to their pregnancy.  

These services include medical procedures, monitoring and testing, physical examinations, discussions with healthcare providers, or other types of prenatal care. Additionally, the new law does not restrict how often paid prenatal leave can be taken by an employee, other than to limit its use to 20 hours in a 52-week period. 

There is no waiting period for employees to be eligible to use paid prenatal leave. Leave will be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher. The new leave entitlement does not mandate payout of unused prenatal leave upon an employee’s separation from employment.  

Paid Lactation Breaks 

Under current New York law, nursing employees are guaranteed unpaid reasonable break time to express breast milk for three years following childbirth. They may also use paid break time such as meal periods or rest periods to express milk. However, beginning on June 19, 2024, New York employees are entitled to 30 minutes of paid break time to express breast milk for three years after childbirth, in addition to any other paid or unpaid break time the employer already provides. 

COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave

The 2025 state budget also continued COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave for more than a year by setting July 31, 2025, as the sunset date for this job-protected leave. Under this leave entitlement, depending on the business’s size, employers must provide at least five or 14 days of paid leave to employees subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19. New York’s COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave law is the last remaining law of this kind in the country. 

Best Practices for Meeting Emerging Leave and Break Obligations

Due to these changes in New York law, New York employers should consider doing the following: 

  • Review and revise employee handbooks, leave policies, and break practices to align with these new paid leave and break obligations 
  • Train appropriate managers and Human Resource personnel on rules to comply with paid prenatal leave, paid lactation breaks, and COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave requirements 
  • Watch for additional guidance from the state of New York regarding paid prenatal leave and paid lactation breaks 
  • Consult with legal counsel if you are unclear regarding any aspect of these laws because non-compliance can be costly 

These emerging leave and break obligations present new challenges for New York State employers. While the COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave requirements have a clear end date, the changes to Paid Prenatal Leave and Paid Lactation breaks may represent trends that could impact other states in North America. As your organization continues to take measures to remain compliant, it is worth recognizing that meeting these accommodations can foster a workplace culture that values and supports the diverse needs of employees, ultimately benefiting both workers and businesses alike. 


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