Eight Weeks of Pay for Bereavement Leave in New York State? Wow

Workers in the Empire State potentially could get 12 weeks paid time off by 2021 — no wonder employers are concerned

It is the hardest of times for a family — when a loved one passes away.

It’s also a challenge for businesses that may lose key employees for days at a time, when those workers must attend to important family matters and have adequate time to grieve.

But what if a company’s loss of bereaved employees is not for mere days, but for weeks?

In the final days of the New York State Assembly’s 2018 session, legislators passed a bill adding eight weeks’ bereavement pay to the current paid family leave law — and the bill now heads to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) for his consideration.

A small deduction from every paycheck — reportedly less than two cents for every $10 earned — currently funds basic paid leave for most New York workers (whether public or private workers). The benefit is 50 percent of an employee’s average wage, and it is capped at a maximum benefit just under $653, as news station WGRZ noted.

Currently eligible for paid family leave in New York are parents welcoming new children into their home (including foster children), workers caring for a sick relative, or those needing time off before a military deployment.

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Bob Confer, president of Confer Plastic of North Tonawanda, New York, says the bill, which would add eight weeks of bereavement leave to the present paid leave options, is a very bad idea.

“I see the greatest issue would be [that] you’ve got government getting into the business of running people’s business[es] for them,” Confer told WGRZ.

Time off for workers in New York State is being phased in; employees can take advantage of up to eight weeks of paid leave this year, while next year, that would grow to 10 weeks. And by 2021, that would be 12 weeks’ paid time off.

Related: Trump Launches New Workforce Training Initiative

Confer’s company currently grants three days off with pay when a family member passes away, with an option for using personal or vacation time; he says that small businesses may struggle if a highly skilled employee is gone for weeks at a time. (Watch him talk about the issue in the video above.)

“It’s one of more than 500 [bills] that passed both houses of the legislature in the final weeks of [the] session. It remains under review by counsel’s office,” Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman in the governor’s office, said in an email to WGRZ.

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