As a self-employed individual – whether a sole proprietor or independent contractor – you can take advantage of New York Paid Family Leave by voluntarily opting in.
If you are a self-employed individual with no employees, opting in is a simple as purchasing an insurance policy. Under the governing law, you are required to purchase a policy for both Paid Family Leave and disability; you cannot opt in for Paid Family Leave alone.
If you are a self-employed individual who has employees in New York State (e.g., a business owner), you are already required to have coverage for your employees. To voluntarily opt in yourself, you must submit a voluntary coverage form to the Workers’ Compensation Board and notify your insurance carrier of your intent to opt in to both Paid Family Leave and disability insurance.
- Employer’s Application for Voluntary Coverage (No Employee Contribution) - Form PFL-135
- Employer’s Application for Voluntary Coverage (Employee Contribution Required) - Form PFL-136
A list of insurers offering Paid Family Leave policies is available on the Department of Financial Services website.
Opt-In Deadlines & Waiting Period
While you can opt in at any time, you may be subject to a two-year waiting period for taking Paid Family Leave, depending on your timing. If you opted/opt in:
- Within the first 26 weeks of starting your business, you do not face a two-year waiting period. You are eligible for Paid Family Leave 26 weeks after you obtain PFL coverage.
- After the first 26 weeks of starting your business, you may still get a Paid Family Leave policy; however, PFL benefit payments cannot be made until after a two-year waiting period.*
*Any self-employed individual who opted in before January 1, 2018, does not face a two-year waiting period.
PFL benefits are based on an employee’s average weekly wage. For self-employed individuals, your average weekly wage is calculated by dividing your total earnings over the previous 52 weeks by 52.
Cancelling a Policy
If you are a self-employed individual without employees, you may cancel your policy. Make sure to respond to any correspondence from the Workers’ Compensation Board inquiring about the status of your coverage. It may be necessary to explain you are self-employed and have no other employees.
If you want to get another policy, an insurance carrier may require a satisfactory explanation of why the previous policy was cancelled and you may be subject to a waiting period.
Contact PFL Helpline
For more information, call the Paid Family Leave toll-free helpline Monday-Friday, 8:30am – 4:30pm EST.