Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to offer paid parental leave to city employees — and his creative method to pay for it — could be a model for other leaders across the state, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who reportedly is considering legislation that would give many New Yorkers 12 weeks of paid family leave.
De Blasio’s plan, announced last month, gives the city’s 20,000 nonunion employees six weeks of paid time off for the birth of a child, an adoption or foster care. The policy applies to mothers and fathers, and will be paid for by reducing longtime employees’ vacation time by two days and repurposing a scheduled raise for management. A city spokeswoman said there have been no complaints about the changes.
Now, it’s up to NYC and key unions to extend the benefit to the 300,000 city employees covered under collective bargaining. Union officials seem to be on board, but deals to make it a reality for union workers must be negotiated and approved. That must happen immediately.
The city also must make sure that its managers respect those who request a leave or return from one, so that no employee who takes advantage of the new policy finds his or her job diminished or is treated unfairly.
Then, others should take a page from NYC’s book. Cuomo can and should take the lead. As governor, he can do more than de Blasio can — for instance, by expanding paid leave to cover those who need to care for a sick relative. What’s more, state legislation could extend to many more New Yorkers, although we don’t yet know the details of what the governor might propose.
A year ago, Cuomo said the State Legislature had no “appetite” for paid family leave. At the time, he was hesitant to push for it. Then, the Senate and Assembly could not to agree on the details of how such a plan would work.
Perhaps this year will differ. Because if Cuomo comes up with a similarly creative way to pay for a statewide program, and such policies become an accepted reality across the state, employees, employers and families will benefit.