Senator Serrano Urges Passage Of Paid Family Leave Act

José M. Serrano

October 12, 2007

State Senator José M. Serrano (D-Manhattan) today called on the Senate Majority to help New York’s working families care for their loved ones by bringing Paid Family Leave legislation to the Senate floor.

The legislation – adopted by the Assembly and awaiting Senate approval – would allow workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave from their job in the event of a family health emergency or to care for a newborn child.

"We need to send a message to New York’s 9-to-5 working families that we as lawmakers understand the need to take time off to care for a new baby, a sick child or a family member with a serious illness," Senator Serrano said.

"The best way to do that is to pass Paid Family Leave, which has languished in the Republican-controlled Senate for far too long," Senator Serrano added. "There is no acceptable reason not to pass this legislation. I am calling on Senate Majority Leader Bruno to bring it to the floor for approval when we come back into session this month, so we can offer relief to those who sacrifice so much to care for their families."

Senator Serrano said the 1993 Federal Family Medical Leave Act – which requires that employers allow workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the purpose of caring for a newborn child or an immediate relative suffering from a serious illness – was a blessing to many families at the time.

But, unless families had savings squared away to soften the blow of not receiving a check, the idea of taking time off was often impractical. A recent study found that 77 percent of those who declined the federal benefit when it was needed did so because they could not risk the loss of income incurred from a short-term leave from work.

"As it stands now, many employees are caught in a Catch-22," Senator Serrano noted. "They have to work to earn money for a sick relative to receive care, but often, these breadwinners are the only caregivers, staying home at a great loss to their potential earnings."

The Paid Family Leave measure would complement the Federal Family Medical Leave Act by requiring that New York employers provide a 12-week paid family leave benefit, with the option to pass a share of the cost to employees through a modest payroll deduction, like disability insurance. Employees would have up to 45 cents per week deducted from their paychecks to cover the first year of paid family leave, with rates in later years to be determined by the state's Superintendent of Insurance.

Senator Serrano also said the bill is good for small businesses. "These types of businesses are also affected when a relative falls ill," he said, "because when an employee leaves to care for them, they are not likely to return, and that disrupts the continuity of a company. Paid Family Leave lessens the burden of small businessowners who do not have the flexibility of offering generous paid leave benefits like big companies do.

"This is why Paid Family Leave is so important and so necessary," Senator Serrano concluded. "I recognize that, and the Senate Majority should as well -- but they need to act, and act now."