ALBANY — The Cuomo administration on Tuesday said 128,000 workers benefitted from paid family leave in 2018 — the first year of the program that pays workers who need to take time off to care for a newborn or an ill relative or to prepare for major surgery.
Most of the workers who benefitted had household incomes of less than $60,000 and likely wouldn’t have been able to afford the time away from work without the benefit of the state law, according to the report.
The benefit is available to more than 8 million workers in New York and funded through a payroll tax on employees of .153 percent of an employee’s gross pay up to an annual maximum of $107.97.
“New York enacted the nation’s strongest paid family leave law so that no one has to choose between losing a job and missing the birth of a child or caring for a sick family member,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said
He and other supporters said the law will keep good employees from quitting their jobs and support families in time of need.
“We’re seeing the enormous positive impact it’s having in giving working New Yorkers the time and financial security they need to care for their families," said Nancy Rankin of the Community Service Society.
Critics, however, argue it’s another high cost of doing business in New York.
“However well intended, the paid family leave program is another Albany mandate added to an ever-increasing list that impacts New York businesses,” said Michael Kracker, executive director of the Unshackle Upstate business group. “While this program is supposed to be employee funded, employers remain concerned that, when fully phased in, the cost burden will shift to the employers.”
State officials said Tuesday total payroll deductions collected by employers weren't immediately available.
Small businesses have complained they are especially hard hit by the mandate.
“Small businesses simply lack the administrative and financial resources of their big-box corporate competitors, which is why one-size-fits-all mandates often disproportionately impact local, independent businesses,” said Greg Biryla, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
State law requires employers to provide the benefit under their disability insurance policies. No state dollars contribute to the benefit. Waivers can be issued so part-time and temporary workers unlikely to use the benefit won’t have to see a deduction in their wages.
As of Jan. 1, New Yorkers became eligible for up to 10 weeks away from work at 55 percent of their average wage. That’s an enhanced benefit from 50 percent of pay in 2018.
Next year, employees will be eligible for 10 weeks from work at 60 percent of their pay. In 2021, the benefit rises to 12 weeks of pay at 67 percent of the statewide average weekly wage.
Previously, New Yorkers were able to take parental leave under a federal program while keeping their jobs secure, but weren’t compensated for their time away from work. The federal program also only applied to large companies.