Employees in New York State will soon be allotted extended leave to care for seriously ill siblings starting Jan. 1, 2023. Bill S.2928-A/A.06098-A allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for any sibling (regardless of biological relation), half-sibling or adopted sibling suffering from serious health problems.
Currently, the New York Paid Family Leave legislation, which was enacted in 2016 and enforced in 2018, covers caregiving for a spouse, domestic partner, children and stepchildren, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents and grandchildren with a serious health condition. The unpaid caregiver is covered even if the family members live outside of New York or outside the country. The new bill S.2928-A/A.06098-A, which was signed into law Nov. 1, expands this to include siblings.
The legislation will bring relief to millions of unpaid family caregivers throughout the state of New York, writes AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel:
“Paid family leave is compassionate and cost-effective, and AARP New York applauds Governor Hochul for signing this new law expanding New York’s already strong program to include siblings. With 2.5 million unpaid family caregivers across New York providing care valued at over $31 billion a year, we should do all we can to support family caregivers. No family member who cares for a loved one should be excluded from paid family leave.”
The new law expands a family leave plan that was already more progressive than others around the country. New York’s Paid Family Leave program is employee-paid insurance that provides job-protected, paid time off to tend to the following:
- Bond with a newly born, adopted or fostered child
- Care for a family member with a serious health condition (which may include severe cases of COVID-19)
- Assist loved ones when a member of the family is deployed abroad on active military service
In some cases, the benefits apply to a situation in which an employee or their minor, dependent child is within a COVID-19 quarantine isolation period.
Regardless of the situation, the Paid Family Leave act allows eligible workers in New York State to take up to 12 weeks off at 67% of their pay (up to a cap) to care for family members in times of need.
“When New York State introduced Paid Family Leave back in 2016, it was one of the most comprehensive programs of its kind,” said State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. “Now, with the passing of this bill, our state’s Paid Family Leave program is even stronger.”
Paid family leave is an increasingly critical conversation as the Baby Boomer generation ages. As more and more require family caregiving, more strain is placed on the “sandwich generation” of working families already juggling to care for their young families in addition to aging parents—a problem only compounded by the pandemic.
The majority of U.S. voters – across race, ethnicity, gender, economic status, age and political affiliation – believe the demands of family caregiving warrant the need for a federal paid family and medical leave act, especially amidst a public health crisis. Some states offer family caregiving leave, but no permanent federal paid family caregiving leave program currently exists.
In fact, the majority of the U.S. population does not have access to paid family and medical leave unless offered by their employers. However, most part-time workers and small businesses do not offer such benefits, leaving many – 45% of workers to be exact – in a lurch should they need to care for an aging family member. The landscape is worse for low-wage workers, with only 8% having access to paid family leave.
States can offer paid family leave, independent of Congressional decision-making, but only nine states and the District of Columbia do so to date. The U.S. is lagging behind other countries and is the only industrialized country not to offer paid family leave (despite being among the wealthiest).
Faint hopes for change were doused when Congress recently cut provisions that would provide access to paid family and sick leave from Biden’s proposed spending bill. The decision to omit this provision was largely due to Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key moderate Democrat, who decided against the inclusion of the provision in the spending package. This provision would have given new parents and those caring for elderly relatives or loved ones battling medical conditions 12 weeks of paid leave from their jobs, regardless of employment type or status.
Paid Leave for All, a national campaign working to pass paid family and medical leave, fortifies the actions of advocates with strategy and coordination in an effort to bring paid leave to all U.S. citizens, regardless of employment type or status. The campaign leverages the combination of policy expertise with grassroots efforts to make a comprehensive and inclusive federal paid family leave program a reality by 2023.
The campaign’s argument echoes that of New York State Governor Hochul, who states, “Taking care of your family is a basic human right. No one should have to choose between caring for a loved one and a paycheck.”