Home / Opinion / Snap Poll: Readers split on paid family leave

Snap Poll: Readers split on paid family leave

A slight majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll favor paid family leave, though they are divided on how it should be achieved.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal is supported by a range of labor unions and community and advocacy groups, but it faces opposition from some business organizations.

Three states—California, New Jersey and Rhode Island—have paid family leave laws. The federal Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 offers 12 weeks of leave, but the leave is unpaid.

The governor’s proposal goes further than the other state laws. It would allow up to 12 weeks of paid family leave—double the benefit period in California and New Jersey and three times Rhode Island’s—and would apply to all private employers. It would be funded by employee payroll contributions and eventually cover 67 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage.

Supporters of paid family leave argue it is offered by every other developed nation. In the United States, 12 percent of private-sector workers are offered paid family leave by their employers. Without paid family leave, Cuomo says, low-income workers often are forced to turn to public assistance. He also cites federal research that shows paid family leave helps businesses retain workers and avoid turnover.

Opponents of Cuomo’s proposal, such as the Business Council of New York State, say it would place an undue burden on businesses with fewer than 50 employees, which are exempt from the federal Family Medical Leave Act. And larger companies would bear the additional costs resulting from other inconsistencies with the FMLA. For example, the federal law requires employees to be on the job for a year before becoming eligible for benefits; in New York, they would be eligible after four weeks.

Of the 53 percent who favor paid family leave, 28 percent support paid family leave law for New York if it aligns with the federal FMLA provisions. A quarter of respondents favor Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s paid family leave proposal for private-sector employees in New York.

More than 700 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted March 7 and 8. Of those respondents who work in the private sector, fewer than 20 percent say their business currently offers employees family leave covering at least 50 percent of their average weekly wage.

Do you favor or oppose a paid family leave law for New York?

I oppose a law requiring paid family leave for private-sector employees in New York: 47%
I favor a paid family leave law for New York if it aligns with the federal FMLA provisions: 28%
I favor Cuomo’s paid family leave proposal for private-sector employees in New York: 25%

If you work in the private sector, does your business currently offer employees family leave covering at least 50 percent of their average weekly wage?
No: 81%
Yes: 19%

COMMENTS:
If we keep this up, soon we will join Greece, Spain, France and Italy. We are not a socialistic nation, we are a capitalist nation. That is why we are the greatest nation, which seems to take care of the world!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

Paid family leave is a terrific benefit. But if the government wants to legislate it, the government should fund it. Public benefits should never be made the responsibility of private employers.
—Mike Bergin, Chariot Learning

If a company wishes to offer this benefit, it must be up to the company. Government-imposed paid leave is just another form of interference in the private sector, essentially another unfunded mandate. New York is already about as business “unfriendly” as can be. This is a really bad idea.
—George Thomas, Ogden

I should be able to take full leave or partial leave as I see fit for a time of up to 12 weeks in the event of a family event. If an employer wants to retain me—they would be wise to offer a more generous policy than federal or state regulations.
—Ryan Peck, Rochester

Why does it make any sense for this to be a law? If you value this, then identify it as a factor when you are looking for a job. If you do not value this, don’t take it into consideration when you look at the total compensation value of the position you are applying for. Let’s be big girls and boys when we enter into agreements with other mature adults.
—Dmitry Koslov, Ontario

Get Cuomo and New York out of our pockets. That is why people and business are leaving. More taxes in another form that we will pay  for and will disappear into the New York general fund.
—G. Palis

Why is the governor proposing two to three times what the next—and only three—states have? In addition to paying the employee for potentially up to 12 weeks and creating and monitoring the admin process, a replacement may need to be brought in that will add more cost to an already large cost burden. Where I work, we have a choice to pay as individuals for leave or disability through each pay period, therefore not a cost to taxpayers if I need to leave work. This proposal will add to the growing employment concerns and cost of doing business in New York State.
—Keith Newcomer

Having children is a personal decision that has many implications. I am a strong supporter of the federal law that mandates 12 weeks of unpaid family leave. Cuomo’s legislation would just add one more “tax” to doing business in New York State. He just doesn’t get it. I hope the Legislature will.
—Michael J. Lebowitz, real estate broker

Stop! Let the market decide. If employers find the benefit of retaining skilled workers to be great enough, they will add it as a benefit. If employees find it a great enough benefit, they will migrate to employers who offer the benefit. If it is economically beneficial, the insurance industry will create it as a product. We must stop adding mandatory expenses to the conduct of business in New York!
—Dorver Kendig, Webster

Paid family leave is really 12 weeks of mandated paid additional vacation time. Although it is sold as pro-family and to take care of your spouse, child or parent in distress, in fact where it has been implemented it is widely abused and used whenever employees just want additional paid time off. The cost to employers in overtime and replacement personnel costs is enormous. The Cuomo bill covers psychological problems as well, and there are no provisions for physician verification of the illness each time days are taken off, so the abuse potential is unlimited. Don’t feel like going in today when the alarm clock rings? Just call in to your employer and say your kid is depressed so you need to take care of him. Then your employer has to cover you, likely at time-and-a-half for a replacement worker. This will be yet another nail in the coffin of New York’s already declining economy and another reason added to the checklist of why we’re always on the bottom of the barrel for job creation.
—Bob Sarbane

One of my earliest memories as a toddler was to say to my father, “Daddy, stay home and play with me.” His response was brief: “No work, no eat.” How we have progressed! Now my children can respond to their children: “Of course I will! Somebody else works, we eat.” Please pass the Swedish meatballs.
—Jay Birnbaum

New York has one of the worst—if not the worst—business climates in the United States. In addition to a $15 per hour minimum wage, the governor now wants to saddle businesses with yet another tax. Who died and made the governor king or emperor?
—Keith B. Robinson, Diamond Packaging

Most companies suggest you use your vacation time and sick time. Most companies also only offer short-term or long-term disability policies that you pay for—so IF you have opted for it, you can use that but that is the extent of it.
—Shaunta Collier-Santos, CEO, LandNPR Productions

We are a retail business that employs 10. Each of us is critical to the operation and the loss of one of us for 12 weeks would be extremely burdensome. This is another example of our inexorable march toward European socialism. Somehow or another American and New York State workers have survived without this for many years. We can’t all feel good all the time.
—Art Elting, Palmyra

Of course, this is an unwarranted and onerous imposition on employers—particularly smaller companies. And it cannot be taken in isolation from the mountains of oppressive burdens imposed on us by the state government and this governor. There are too many to list, but among them are the recent massive increase in unemployment taxes, $15 minimum wage, different corporate tax schedules depending on your industry, freebies to special companies in special places (a.k.a. governor’s pals) that the rest of pay for, disability insurance that most states (42/50) don’t even have, onerous workers’ compensation, and much more. Each time we bring in a new employee—or even accept a new application—we are holding a ticking time bomb in our hands. I can promise you that all this will result in fewer businesses, less employment (esp. for those in the lower rungs of the ladder), termination of marginal employees and other means to recover our employment losses. Cuomo says that we will “just have to pay it.” If he thinks he’s smarter than us he better think again. We’ll find a way to get it back and it will be the hard way. It is further proof that we need to separate our region from New York City and form a new state.
—Jim Cronin

Our governor sure has a knack for coming up with job-killers and legislation that puts New York at a distinct disadvantage to other states. In early New York the politicians stood outside the voting halls and bought votes. Now politicians buy the votes with freebies paid for out of our pockets and the pockets of the businessmen we count on to generate jobs. Politicians make political jobs. Small business makes real jobs.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services PC

3/11/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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