Op-ed: Hardworking New Yorkers deserve paid family leave


At the most critical moments of our lives, far too many of us New Yorkers face an impossible decision: “Do I choose my family or do I choose my job?” There are times when our families as well as our jobs need us. We have a newborn, a child is seriously ill or an aging parent is hospitalized and we need to take time from work.

Yet only a small percentage of all private sector workers have paid family leave. The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does offer some help, but its coverage is limited. Forty percent of the workforce is left out. Even those who do qualify for family leave under the FMLA often cannot afford to take it because it is unpaid.

Paid family leave is out of reach for too many in our city and our borough. The loss of income or a job can take a huge financial toll and puts families at risk. No one should have to choose between a family’s health and its ability to make ends meet.

There is a solution: common-sense legislation to provide paid family leave for New Yorkers. My bill (A. 3870) would implement paid family leave benefits that would allow individuals to cope with an injury or sickness, pregnancy or to care for a family member. Providing workers with paid time off to care for their families is not only good for their economic security but also benefits the overall economy and society as a whole.

My legislation will provide workers in New York State with up to 12 weeks of paid leave a year to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. It will also help military families. Knowing paid family leave will be there if and when they need it will provide every worker with peace of mind. Moreover, it will bring greater financial stability to 50,000 to 77,000 New Yorkers each year as well as the families who rely on their earnings.

Family leave insurance will not burden small businesses. The program will build on New York’s existing Temporary Disability Insurance program to which both employers and employees contribute. In fact, eight out of 10 small business owners support expanding the state disability insurance program to provide paid family leave.

Times and attitudes have changed. It is time for workplaces to change too. All New Yorkers should have the ability to care for their families in times of need. We cannot afford to wait. My bill has just recently passed the New York State Assembly, and I would urge the Senate and the governor to support this vital legislation to help all hardworking New Yorkers balance work and family and maintain their economic security.

Let’s get New York moving again so it can help both workers and businesses succeed.

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan represents the 37th Assembly District, which covers all or parts of Astoria, Long Island City, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Sunnyside and Woodside.


More from Around New York