State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, speaking at an event sponsored by Crain’s Business this week, said he supports paid family leave in concept and is open to considering legislation in the coming session. He said, “The details on something like that are extraordinarily important. So in terms of discussion, we’ll have those. I’m not afraid to engage in that internally or externally.”
The State Assembly passed a paid family leave bill in the spring which uses the state’s temporary disability program and employee contributions to pay up to two thirds of a regular salary for up to twelve weeks. Employees who are caring for a newborn or a sick family member can take the leave with a doctor’s statement. Of course, this would benefit many family caregivers of seniors.
Employees would pay the extra cost through payroll deductions to get the disability benefit. However, that benefit is below $200 weekly right now and the push to raise that above the current level would be split with the employer. The Senate has concerns about the impact on business to provide greater contributions to raise the current benefit to over $600. Previously, Senator Jack Martins, chair of the Labor Committee expressed interest in paid family leave and held a hearing in Albany last spring. He said he would like to hold more hearings. Flanagan said the legislation should be thoroughly studied.
The political prospects of the bill are now somewhat related to the major push Governor Cuomo has announced to get legislation passed to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. A wage board he convened agreed to the raise to be phased in for fast food workers only. The Governor plans a full court press on the minimum wage issue. His office also is planning to have discussions with the Paid Family Leave Coalition and has expressed some interest in the bill. However, there is concern that the business community will object to being hit with two major bills like this that would increase their employee costs. There is some thinking that the Senate may actually push ahead on paid family leave since it will be less of a burden than the raise in the minimum wage statewide to $15 which has more opposition as well.