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Gov. Cuomo, Business Leaders Clash Over Paid Family Leave Program Expansion

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Flickr

  State lawmakers and business leaders are clashing over a proposed expansion of the Paid Family Leave Program. Workers would be eligible to leave their jobs for 12 weeks to care for a new child or seriously ill relative. Governor Cuomo is a leading advocate forPaid Family Leave.

"The employee doesn't have the same amount of power, the same amount of respect in the workplace. So we say 'Paid Family Leave'  because this should be a balance between work, family, and your life," says Gov. Cuomo. 

Credit Gov. Andrew Cuomo Flickr
Gov. Andrew Cuomo Flickr
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at rally for Paid Family Leave in Harlem Wednesday February 17, 2016.

  There are currently three proposed bills in the state legislature. They would ensure 12 weeks of job-protected paid leave for workers that qualify—the longest benefits period of its kind in the nation. 

"[Workers] should be allowed to stay home without going broke. That is what an employee-funded paid leave program is all about and that is what we want to pass this year," says Gov. Cuomo.

One business leader who is against the proposals is Vice President of Government Affairs for the Business Council of New York, Ken Pokalsky. He says the mandates ignore relief policies already in place for businesses.

"This bill says it doesn't matter what your circumstances are, how many employees you have, what the nature of that employment is, what the challenges you might face in finding temporary workers, in holding jobs open for the return of someone in paid leave," Pokalsky says. "It's one size fits all, you must do it this way. And that's a real concern for our members, especially our small business members."

Larger corporations would likely have less of a problem with meeting requirements. Pokalsky says the enhanced programs would create two major challenges though for small businesses. Pokalsky says that the loss of a specific employee would have more impact the smaller the business is.

"The second part, especially for a small business who doesn't have an HR staff that understands what the law requires, is understanding what an eligible leave category and what's not," he says.

Pokalsky says the proposals create new, unnecessary hurdles for Upstate employers still recovering from the recession in 2008. Advocates for Paid Family Leave say the program helps businesses retain workers and avoid turnover.

Four states and the District of Columbia have family leave policies that provide paid leave for employees to care for sick or disabled family members or a new child. 

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.