Legislation should be separate acts
Quietly, with little fanfare, legislation made its way through both houses of the state Legislature to include bereavement leave as part of the state’s Paid Family Leave legislation.
Encouraging bereavement leave is important; few will argue that we all need time to grieve the loss of a loved one. Many businesses in New York state recognize the importance of bereavement and include paid time off for bereavement as part of their company policy. We don’t disagree at all with the state’s desire to make bereavement leave open to all workers or even to standardize bereavement leave across the state. Lumping bereavement in with the Paid Family Leave, act, however, is bad policy.
While we don’t necessarily think many employees would take the full 12 weeks of their paid leave for bereavement, the law doesn’t limit the time taken off for bereavement. There is a difference between caring for a loved one who is ill and grieving for a loved one who has passed away; the law should reflect those differences. Businesses have also raised concerns about vagueness in the law that leads them to believe employees may be able to take bereavement leave for family deaths that take place before the law takes effect. Finally, there is the way this law would interact with the state’s proposal to change the regulations that would govern when employees are called in to work unexpectedly. Since bereavement leave is rarely scheduled in advance, businesses could find themselves hit with both the absence of a valued employee but paying additional money to fill the shift — or have to leave the work undone until the employee returns to work.
Sometimes, good intentions lead to bad policy. This is one of those times. Gov. Andrew Cuomo should veto this legislation. It’s an election year, though, so we won’t hold our breath.