Senator Hassell-Thompson Calls For Passage Of Paid Family Leave Legislation

Ruth Hassell-Thompson

October 18, 2007


State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx/Westchester) today called on the Senate Majority to bring Paid Family Leave legislation to the floor for a vote when the Senate reconvenes soon.

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.

“There are so many families out there who work hard for very little money and are committed to providing some kind of stability for their loved ones,” Senator Hassell-Thompson said. “So, when we force these breadwinners to choose between caring for their family without pay, and working to stay afloat financially at the risk of that stability – well, it’s not much of a choice, is it?

“Paid Family Leave is vital to 9-to-5 working families in New York,” she added. “It lets them know that as legislators, we understand that family comes first. Until the Republican-controlled Senate puts this legislation to a vote, we will be sending a far different message: that politics, not families, come first. I am calling on Senate Majority Leader Bruno to not let that happen; let the Senate vote on this.”

Senator Hassell-Thompson 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.

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 Hassell-Thompson also said the bill is good for small businesses.

“These types of businesses are also affected when an employee takes maternity leave, or time off to care for a sick or injured relative,” she said, “Once these employees are gone, very few return. Many small businesses do not have the luxury of offering paid leave benefits, so Paid Family Leave is good for them as well.”