New York Leads the Way with New Paid Prenatal Leave

Date   Apr 26, 2024

Executive Summary: The New York State Legislature’s recently passed budget included a provision making pregnant employees eligible for employer paid time off from work for doctor appointments, medical procedures or other types of prenatal care. This new law becomes effective January 1, 2025. It is the first state law in the nation to require such paid prenatal care benefits. It only applies to private sector employees in New York. 

Background: In the past several years New York has incrementally expanded the availability of paid and unpaid employee leaves of absence. As written, the new law amends New York’s paid sick leave law, section 196-b, to require all private sector employers regardless of size to provide up to 20 hours of employer paid prenatal leave in a 52-week period. We anticipate that the NYS Department of Labor will publish interpretative guidance before the January 1, 2025 effective date.

Employees can use the 20 hours of paid leave in hourly increments. Unlike the other benefits provided under New York’s paid sick leave law, the paid prenatal benefits are available immediately after hire. The benefits are to be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay and not less than minimum wage. 

This new benefit is in addition to the existing paid benefits available to eligible employees under New York’s paid safe and sick leave law and paid family leave law. Other than the 20 hours within a 52-week period, the new law does not limit how often the eligible employee may use this benefit. It is, however, a “use it or lose it” law because employers need not pay out unused prenatal benefits after termination of the employment relationship.  

The Bottom Line

Before the effective date, employers should revise employment policies and handbooks to reflect this new benefit. After the effective date, employers that receive a prenatal leave request will need to consider how this law may interact with legal obligations arising from other laws such as the Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers also should consider New York Labor Law Section 215, which broadly prohibits retaliation against employees taking leaves permitted by federal, state or local law. 

If you have any questions regarding the new law or the issues addressed in this Alert, please contact the author, Greg Reilly, partner in our New York City office at or the FordHarrison attorney with whom you usually work.