Paid Time Off (PTO) in New York

HR Law

Maria Danel-Hryniewicz | 7 minutes of reading

Navigating Paid Time Off (PTO) policies in New York requires a keen understanding of state laws and a strategy for effective management. With a landscape rich in employee rights and protections, New York sets a high standard for workplace benefits. From paid family leave to jury duty and bereavement leave, the state offers a broad spectrum of support for workers. Let’s navigate the nuances of New York’s PTO requirements together, ensuring your practices benefit both your team and the organization.

New York PTO Law

In New York, PTO (Paid Time Off) policies are largely determined by the employer, as there is no state-wide mandate requiring employers to provide PTO. However, New York stands out for its progressive stance on other types of leave. Sick leave, family leave, and safe leave, indirectly influence how PTO policies are shaped within organizations. Employers are encouraged to develop comprehensive PTO policies that support employees’ work-life balance while adhering to the specific leave laws New York has enacted. This approach helps businesses attract and retain talent by offering competitive benefits that go beyond the statutory minimums.

Payment of Accrued, Unused Vacation on Termination

In New York, employers are not legally obligated to provide vacation leave. If an employer chooses to offer it, certain rules apply regarding the payment of accrued, unused vacation upon termination. New York labour laws require employers to adhere to their own established policies or employment contracts when it comes to the payout of unused vacation time. If the company policy or contract stipulates that employees will be paid for unused vacation time upon termination, then the employer must honour this agreement. This emphasizes the importance for HR professionals to communicate the company’s vacation policy and ensure it is consistently applied. This allows to avoid disputes and ensure compliance with state guidelines.

Overview of NYC’s Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law

New York City mandates paid sick leave for most employees. This law ensures workers get paid time off for health or safety needs. Employers must provide this benefit based on their size and the employee’s hours. It allows employees to address their own or a family member’s health, and respond to issues like domestic violence. This law shows New York City’s dedication to worker rights and public health.

Paid vs. Unpaid Sick Leave

In New York, the approach to sick leave hinges on whether employers offer paid or unpaid time off, largely influenced by the size and resources of the business. For companies with five or more employees or those with a net income of more than $1 million, the law mandates providing paid sick leave. Smaller businesses, while not required to offer paid leave, must still provide unpaid sick leave, ensuring no employee is left without support during health-related absences. This framework not only protects employees across the board but also allows for the diverse economic realities of New York’s businesses. The state’s legislation encourages employers to prioritize worker health, fostering a healthier workforce and a more resilient community.

Holiday leave

Holiday leave policies offer flexibility to employers, who decide whether to provide paid time off during national and state holidays. Unlike sick leave, there’s no statutory requirement for businesses to close or pay employees extra for working on holidays. However, many New York employers choose to offer holiday leave as part of a competitive benefits package, recognizing the value of allowing employees time to celebrate significant occasions with their families. This practice not only enhances job satisfaction and work-life balance but also contributes to a positive company culture.

State holidays

In New York, state holidays play a significant role in both public and private sectors, with several days each year designated for celebration and remembrance. Employers are not obligated by law to observe these holidays by closing their businesses or providing paid time off. However, recognizing state holidays can be a significant aspect of an employer’s holiday policy, reflecting respect for cultural and historical events important to employees and the community. New York State observes holidays such as New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, among others. Forward-thinking companies often align their holiday leave policies with these state holidays, offering employees paid time off as a gesture of goodwill and as a means to encourage a healthy work-life balance. This approach not only boosts morale but also aligns businesses with statewide observances.

Jury Duty Leave in New York

Employees called for jury duty receive protections and certain entitlements, ensuring civic responsibilities don’t unfairly impact their employment. New York law requires employers to allow their workers time off to serve on a jury, although the specifics regarding pay can vary. While employers aren’t obligated to pay wages during jury service, many choose to offer paid leave as part of their broader benefits package. This commitment helps maintain financial stability for employees fulfilling their legal duties.

New York’s Paid Family Leave Law

New York’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) program stands as one of the most comprehensive in the nation, offering substantial support to employees during critical life moments. This groundbreaking law allows workers to take paid time off to bond with a new child or care for a close relative with a serious health condition. Funded through employee payroll contributions, the program provides a percentage of the employee’s salary for up to 12 weeks, ensuring financial support while they tend to family matters. It’s a progressive step towards balancing work and personal life, highlighting New York’s commitment to fostering workplaces that recognize the importance of family.

Bereavement Leave in New York (Funeral Leave)

While New York law does not mandate employers to provide bereavement leave, many companies choose to offer this compassionate benefit. Bereavement leave allows employees to take time off to grieve and handle affairs following the death of a loved one. Policies vary widely among employers, with some offering paid leave and others providing unpaid time off. The decision to include bereavement leave as part of a company’s comprehensive leave policy reflects an understanding of the need for compassion and support during such difficult times.

Voting leave

New York encourages civic participation by ensuring employees have the opportunity to vote in elections. The state’s voting leave law allows workers to request time off to vote if they do not have sufficient time outside of working hours. Employers must provide up to two hours of paid leave to vote, granted the employee notifies their employer at least two days before Election Day. This law aims to remove barriers to voting, allowing employees to fulfil their civic duties without financial penalty.

New York Military Family Leave (Military Spouse Leave)

New York supports military families by providing Military Family Leave, also known as Military Spouse Leave, for employees with spouses serving in the armed forces. This law allows employees to take unpaid time off when their military spouse is on leave from deployment or has been deployed to a combat zone. The aim is to help families spend time together during crucial moments, recognizing the sacrifices made by military personnel and their families. Employers are required to comply with this law, ensuring that affected employees can use this leave without fear of losing their jobs or facing discrimination.

Witness Leave and Crime Victim Leave in New York

New York provides specific protections for employees who need to take time off work to serve as a witness in court or to address issues as a crime victim. Witness leave allows employees to be absent from work without fear of reprisal when they are legally required to testify in a court case. Similarly, crime victim leave grants time off for employees to attend court proceedings related to a criminal case in which they are a victim. These provisions are crucial for ensuring that employees can fulfil their civic duties or seek justice without compromising their employment. Employers must understand these rights and incorporate policies that comply with state requirements, offering support and flexibility to employees during these critical times.

Is rollover of leaves allowed?

In New York, the allowance for rollover of unused leave, particularly sick leave, is clearly defined under state law. Employers are required to let employees carry over unused sick leave to the next calendar year, enhancing the flexibility and utility of sick leave policies. However, employers may cap the amount of sick leave an employee can use in a year, even if an employee has accrued more time than the cap allows. This policy ensures that employees don’t lose their accumulated leave, providing a safety net for future health-related needs.

When are employers required to pay out unused paid time off?

In New York, the requirement for employers to pay out unused paid time off (PTO) at termination hinges on the company’s established policies or employee contracts. Unlike some states that mandate payout of accrued vacation or PTO, New York defers to the employer’s written policy. If the policy or agreement explicitly states that employees will be compensated for unused PTO upon leaving the company, then employers must honour that commitment. This makes it crucial for businesses to clearly define and communicate their PTO payout policies.

How does quitting vs being terminated affect the right to be paid out for unused time?

In New York, whether an employee quits or is terminated does not inherently affect their right to be paid out for unused time, as this right is primarily governed by the employer’s established PTO policy. The critical factor is what the company’s policy stipulates regarding payout upon departure. If the policy clearly states that employees are entitled to payment for unused PTO or vacation time, this applies regardless of whether the employee resigns or is terminated. However, without a clear policy in place, employers are not obligated to pay out unused PTO. This underscores the importance of having comprehensive, well-documented PTO policies that address various termination scenarios.

How can FreeQuest help with time-off management?

FreeQuest offers a dynamic solution for time-off management, streamlining the process for businesses of all sizes. With its user-friendly interface, FreeQuest simplifies the complexities of managing PTO, sick leave, holiday leave, and other forms of time off. Employers can easily configure the system to align with New York’s laws and their own policies, ensuring compliance and reducing administrative burdens. Employees benefit from a transparent system where they can request time off, view their leave balances, and understand their entitlements in real-time. FreeQuest also provides valuable analytics and reporting tools, helping HR professionals monitor leave trends, manage accruals, and ensure that staffing levels remain optimal. By automating many aspects of leave management, FreeQuest helps businesses foster a positive work environment, where the focus shifts from managing paperwork to supporting employee well-being and productivity.


New York’s approach to PTO policies reflects its commitment to employee well-being and work-life balance. For HR professionals, staying informed and adaptable is crucial in this ever-evolving legal landscape. Tools like FreeQuest play a pivotal role in simplifying time-off management, allowing businesses to focus on what truly matters—supporting their employees. Armed with the knowledge from this guide and the right tools, you’re well-equipped to manage PTO policies in New York effectively, fostering a workplace culture that values and respects employee time off.