NY Legislature Adds Bereavement Leave to NY Paid Family Leave Law

New York state lawmakers want to require businesses to give workers three months of paid bereavement leave so they have ample time to mourn when a loved one dies.

The Senate and Assembly have already passed the bill, which is currently under review by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, WCBS-TV reported. If finalized, it would be added to the state’s Paid Family Leave law, which went into effect in January.

Bereavement now a qualifier for PFL

On Wednesday, June 20, the New York State Legislature passed an amendment to the state’s Paid Family Leave Act (PFL), adding “bereavement leave” as a qualifying reason for leave. The amendment will grant virtually all private-sector employees partially-paid, fully-protected leave to grieve and heal following the passing of a family member. Employers should note that the amendment will not immediately impact their PFL program; once signed into law, the bereavement leave amendment will not take effect until January 1, 2020.

The state’s Paid Family Leave Act went into effect on January 1, 2018. Currently, eligible employees may take PFL for three qualifying reasons: (1) to provide care for a family member with a serious health condition, (2) to bond with their newly born or adopted child, and (3) to attend to a qualifying exigency arising out of a family member’s military service. The amendment now adds a fourth qualifying reason for leave: “leave taken for the purposes of bereavement due to the death of a family member.” The amendment will require employees to provide notice of bereavement leave “as soon as practicable.”

In cases where an employee’s family member passes away while the employee was providing care, the employee will be able to immediately transition their remaining PFL time to bereavement leave. The amendment passed with significant bipartisan support, sponsored in the State Assembly by Democrat Joe Morelle and in the State Senate by Republican Rich Funke. The amount of leave and cash benefits under PFL will increase annually until 2021. Assuming the bereavement leave amendment is signed as-is by Governor Cuomo, eligible employees will be able to take 10 weeks of bereavement leave starting in 2020, while receiving 60% of their average weekly wage. In the interim, employers should evaluate their current leave policies and practices. The full PFL implementation calendar is below:

Year Length of Leave Cash Benefits While on Leave
2018 8 Weeks 50% of employees’ average weekly wage
2019 10 Weeks 55% of employees’ average weekly wage
2020 10 Weeks 60% of employees’ average weekly wage <- Bereavement starts
2021 12 Weeks 67% of employees’ average weekly wage

Who sponsored the bill?

Republican Sen. Richard Funke of Batavia, whose son died, sponsored the bill, the TV station reported. “I’ve experienced the pain of losing a child. The grief can be unpredictable and overwhelming,” Funke said in a statement. “No employee should have to fear losing their job in order to take the time they need to mourn.”

Sen. David Carlucci, a Democrat from Clarkstown, who also co-sponsored the bill.

“We need to make it as easy as possible, be humane and understand the real cost involved in losing a loved one,” Carlucci said.

The bill would require employers to pay 50 to 67 percent of the state’s average weekly wage, or about $680 per week, the report states. Workers would also be guaranteed the same or comparable job when they return from bereavement leave.

What did the business owners say?

Some small business owners told the WCBS the law could be crippling.

“Our business and any other small business it would be catastrophic,” said Greg Greenwood, owner of Bleeker Street Pizza. “Twelve weeks paid leave. We need all the staff that we have.”

One of the biggest problems would be having to train new people, then laying them off when an employee returns from leave.

“That would be a very awkward situation,” Greenwood said.

Christine Ippolito, who owns a human resources services for small businesses, agreed.

“This has the potential to be a severe economic hardship on small companies, as well as cause operational issues when key people are out,” Ippolito told the TV station.

Zack Hutchins, of the Business Council of New York, said the governor should not sign the bill.

“We seem to be painting all employers with this broad brush that they’re bad and that they’re out to get their employees, and that’s simply not the case,” he said.

More Information

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Sources for this article

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