The Business Council opposes this legislation that would amend Article 9 of the Workers' Compensation Law with respect to Paid Family Leave ("PFL") to allow time off in the event of the death of a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, spouse, or domestic partner. In addition to the burden on employers in scheduling employees, workers are entirely responsible for funding the costs of this program and, as drafted, the impact on low-wage workers would be immense. These concerns were reflected in Governor Cuomo’s 2018 veto message in response to similar legislation.
There is no greater loss than the death of a close family member, but, as drafted, this bill raises numerous concerns. First, the twelve-week benefit upon full implementation would constitute an extreme expansion of the PFL program, the cost of which would result in a dramatic burden on low-wage workers. We anticipate that the employee contribution would increase significantly as the utilization of a new class of benefits is actuarially factored into the premium rate, which is set annually.
Second, there is no stated limit on when leave can be taken. Unlike bonding leave, which is limited to 12 months from the qualifying event, no such limit would exist here. This drafting failure could lead to claims being made well beyond a year from death.
Third, more study of the impact of this expansion is needed. Projections show that deductions from workers' paychecks for PFL could more than double under this bill. Statewide, the fiscal impact for workers would be in the millions annually. There may be ways to implement such a program without such a huge fiscal impact on workers.
Finally, the bill does not apply to all PFL policies. The amendment would take effect for policies issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2021, but it does not mandate that a policy issued in mid-2020 must be modified to include bereavement. Thus, there would be split experiences for employers and employees, and confusion as to when and whether the benefit applied.
Bereavement leave would rarely be scheduled in advance so, combined with the intermittent unscheduled nature of PFL, employers could ultimately be faced with up to 60 days of unscheduled absence annually by each full time employee. As PFL applies to employers of even one employee, small business in particular will have immense challenges in managing staffing levels to meet customer needs.
As a final point, bereavement leave is a benefit already provided by more than 90 percent of all employers (Source: SHRM 2018 Benefits Survey). According to that survey, the typical allowable leave is 4 days. Employers understand that to attract and retain the best talent available they need to be there for their employee’s in their time of need and will continue to do so without another burdensome government mandate.
If the legislature is committed to assuring a leave benefit for all employees, we strongly suggest they to amend the paid family leave law to include bereavement as an allowable leave category, with a reasonable cap on allowable days consistent with general practices as illustrated by the SHRM benefit survey.
For these reasons, The Business Council, on behalf of its more than 2,300 members around the state, oppose this bill.