Queens senator’s legislation to include siblings under paid family leave signed into law

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State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. delivers special remarks during the “Night of Heroes” celebration and reflection for the St. John’s Episcopal staff on May 18. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

A bill sponsored by state Senator Joseph Addabbo allowing family members to care for a sibling under Paid Family Leave (PFL) was signed into law this month.

Under the current law, employees cannot take leave to care for a sibling with a serious health condition.

“If this past year has taught us anything, it is that we must recognize the needs of all individuals, especially during life’s most challenging periods,” Addabbo said. “Many siblings share a strong bond, and for some single individuals, a sibling may be the only surviving family member that they have. Adding ‘sibling’ to the definition of ‘family member’ for the purpose of Paid Family Leave is simply common sense.”

The new bill (S.2928-A) builds upon the PFL legislation enacted in 2016, which created one of the most comprehensive paid family leave programs in the nation.

Currently, New York’s PFL defines family members more broadly than the federal Family Medical Leave Act and allows employees to take job-protected, paid leave to care for family members with serious health conditions, among other things.

The 2016 proposal initially included siblings, but they were cut out in the final enacted deal.

A family member is defined as a spouse, child, parent, domestic partner, parent-in-law, grandparent or grandchild — but siblings were not included in the definition. That meant that an employee couldn’t take paid leave to care for a sibling; it didn’t matter if the sibling were terminally ill and without a spouse, child, parent or someone else to provide care.

The only exception to rule excluding siblings is if the sibling had been acting as a parent to the employee, or the employee had been acting as a parent to the sibling.

The new legislation expands the definition of “family members” to include siblings. This includes biological siblings, adopted siblings, step-siblings and half-siblings. These family members can live outside of New York state, and even outside of the country.

“Since the initial PFL bill was signed into law back in 2016, it has given single mothers, working parents and military personnel financial security and job protection dealing with a serious personal matter, while minimizing the negative effect on small businesses. Now siblings will be afforded the same benefit,” Addabbo said.

Employee contributions made through paycheck deductions cover the entire cost of PFL. Every year, the employee contribution rate is set according to the cost of insurance coverage, and employers use the employee contributions to pay the insurance premiums.

The law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.