It’s already the law in New Jersey, Rhode Island and California—a person can take up to 12 weeks of family leave to either care for a new child or a sick family member and receive wages or a salary while on leave. Proponents say it’s made a huge difference for working women in states where it has been implemented. Advocates in New York say it’s time Governor Cuomo publicly support bringing the benefit to thousands across the state of New York.
Under the current federal statute, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employee may take up to 12 weeks of leave for such situations, but the only guarantee is that the employee will be able to return to his or her old job, or a job with similar pay and responsibility. The FMLA does not require that an employer provide any level of compensation while the worker is on leave. Critics say that leaves workers in the difficult position of being forced to choose between falling behind in their financial obligations if they take time off to care for sick family members, or staying at work while their loved ones don’t get the care they need.
A spokesperson in the Governor’s office has told the press that Governor Cuomo “is a supporter of paid family leave,” but the Governor has not been outspoken in support of such legislation and last month publicly stated that he perceived “little appetite” for the issue in the state capital. After that statement surfaced, a group of 56 prominent women, including state legislators, social service agency and women’s group representatives, and New York City political leaders, signed a letter to Governor Cuomo, telling him that “the time…has come” and “New York should step forward as a leader” in addressing and providing paid family leave benefits.
Republicans and Democrats in the state Assembly each have their own version of a paid family leave bill. The State Senate, controlled by the Republican party, has already approved a budget resolution that would include funding for paid family leave. Democrats have proposed legislation that would provide leave in three situations—where a worker needs to provide for a new baby, a sick relative or is affected by the military service of a family member. The legislation would be funded through payroll deductions and would give workers a maximum of two-thirds of their prior income. Similar legislation passed in the Assembly last year and is expected to be approved by the Assembly again this year.
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