June 15, 2012
Around Town – By Neal Tepel
With support for family leave insurance policies growing nationwide as a solution to help families and the economy, the Campaign for Family Leave Insurance in New York State is building support with legislators. During meetings with legislative leaders, New Yorkers without family leave insurance shared their experiences of losing jobs or being forced to file for bankruptcy because they were unable to take paid and protected time off around the birth of their children or to care for an ill family member.
Although the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees twelve weeks of unpaid leave to many workers to care for a sick relative or a new child, millions of New Yorkers cannot afford to take unpaid time from work, forcing them to choose between the health and financial security of their families. A Better Balance, a NYC-based national legal advocacy organization, has been collecting workers’ stories illustrating the urgent need to provide family leave insurance during these tough economic times, and will be delivering these to legislators on Tuesday.
The New York State Family Leave Insurance Bill (A-6289/S-7547), first introduced in 2009, is led in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Queens), and in the Senate by lead sponsor Senator Roy McDonald (R-Saratoga). Over the past few years, the list of coalition supporters for the bill has grown to over 100 organizations.
The Family Leave Insurance Bill would provide workers with up to 12 weeks of partial wages during time off from work taken to care for a child in the first year after the child’s birth, or to care for a seriously ill family member. Family Leave Insurance would be financed by small payroll deductions from employees, through expansion of the existing Temporary Disability Insurance Program. Since this new family leave insurance benefit is entirely paid by employees, it will not impact the state budget. New Jersey’s family leave insurance program, which went into effect in 2010, will only cost employees $16 per annum in 2012.
“Family is at the core of our humanity. Yet for many workers, taking care of their loved ones when they need them most could actually jeopardize their own economic well-being,” said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. “That is a choice that no one should have to make. When workers need to take leave fromtheir jobs to care for a new child or sick family member, there must be adequate financial supports available for them to do so. By creating a Family Leave Insurance program, New York will be protecting workers and their families, creating a level playing field for businesses, and reducing social safety net costs for the public.”