What New York’s Family Leave Policy Means for the US

August 4, 2016

New York has led the way in promoting social rights in the United States. The passing of the Family Leave policy in April 2016 is the latest evidence of this. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Family Leave program into law so that both men and women who have worked for any New York employer for 26 consecutive weeks, regardless of the size of the business, will be entitled to take eight weeks of paid leave at 50% of their usual weekly pay. They can use this leave to care for a new child, a family member with a health condition, or to help family when one member is called up to military service. The establishment of paid family leave is viewed as a landmark act. It will help workers to enjoy financial benefits and job protection while they take necessary time off work.

While the existing Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ensures job protection for some employers, it does not mandate payment. In addition, it excludes employees in businesses with less than 50 workers, and those employees who have worked for a company for less than one year. The new family leave policy is instead much more comprehensive. It provides no exemptions for small businesses. Unsurprisingly, this has been badly received by businesses organizations and employers who complain that family leave places unfair costs and burdens on them. They point out the hidden costs (such as needing to hire temporary workers and having to make extra payments).

The Business Council of New York State has insisted that Family Leave is a “hardship” for small businesses as the businesses will need to hire replacement employees and train them. Yet the implementation of family leave provisions is a landmark development in the United States. In America, previous provision for family care has been minimal compared to what employees need and what the rest of the world offers.

As more and more states pass paid family leave policies, can the federal government be far behind?

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