ALBANY — New Yorkers will soon be able to take as much as 12 weeks off a year from work at up to two-thirds pay to care for a sick relative or newborn under a state budget deal agreed to Thursday.
“We are finally giving workers a choice,” said Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) who has sponsored the proposal for years.
“In the past we gave workers a very difficult choice — to choose between what their heart was telling them to do and what their wallets were telling them to do,” Klein said in an interview.
Under the program, beginning in January 2018, workers will be able to receive half of their average weekly wage, with compensation capped at half of the statewide average wage, while taking family leave. The program will phase in until 2021, when workers will be able to receive 67 percent of their average weekly wage up to 67 percent of the statewide weekly wage.
The program will cost all workers 70 cents a week from their pay checks beginning in 2018, rising to $1.47 a week when fully implemented. Employers will not be charged, but could face the burden of temporarily replacing workers or making up for lost productivity.
Klein said New Yorkers will be able to benefit from the paid leave after working six months with an employer. He said most states require a year at work. He also said New York’s program will begin by providing up to eight weeks leave, then 10, then 12 weeks in 2021. He said most states offer only six weeks.
Paid family leave has been a proposal years in the making that hadn’t gotten through the Senate’s Republican majority, which was concerned that the benefit would hurt struggling businesses.
“I think the governor getting involved this year really moved the issue to fruition,” said Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference that works with the Republican majority.
Some business groups oppose the program.
“The announced budget agreement incorporates provisions which will threaten the viability of New York’s small businesses and set our state on a path of complete economic uncertainty,” said Mike Durant of the National Federation of Independent Businesses in New York. “New York’s economic reality cannot, and should not, be pushed into a fiscally irresponsible progressive experiment. . . . This budget agreement will not make New York more economically competitive and further cements our status as blatantly anti-business.”
Federal family leave already provides up to 12 weeks, but doesn’t provide any compensation.