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Sick leave benefits under NYS paid sick leave law starts January 2021, Governor Cuomo announces

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Governor Andrew Cuomo Tuesday announced that New Yorkers can begin using sick leave benefits under the state's nation-leading paid sick leave law starting January 1, 2021. This legislation, which was advanced in the Governor's 2020 State of the State address and enacted as part of the FY 2021 Budget, secures paid sick leave for workers at medium and large businesses and paid or unpaid leave for those at small businesses, depending on the employer's net income. 

Under this groundbreaking law, New Yorkers can use guaranteed sick leave to recover from an illness themselves, care for a sick family member, or address safety needs if they or a family member are the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking. 

"Even before the coronavirus pandemic, we knew that no one should have to make the unimaginable choice between keeping their job or caring for themselves or a loved one. This public health crisis has put that need in even greater relief. Now, as we continue to beat back COVID and build a stronger New York, we are expanding this fundamental right to all New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo said. "New York has long championed workers' rights, and this strongest-in-the-nation paid sick leave law will help millions of our neighbors stay healthy—a boon for both businesses' bottom line and New Yorkers' well-being."

"No one should have to choose between going to work sick or caring for a sick loved one and not getting a paycheck, especially as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "That is why in New York, we have the most comprehensive paid family leave and paid sick leave programs in the nation that serve as a model for other states to follow. This is part of our ongoing efforts to help ensure equal access, opportunity and success for all hard-working men and women in New York State."  

New Yorkers earn sick leave based on the hours they work, earning one hour of leave for every 30 hours they work, retroactive to September 30, 2020. New York's new guaranteed sick leave law requires businesses to provide different levels of sick leave depending on their size:  

Businesses with 100 or more employees must provide up to seven days (56 hours) of paid sick leave per year;  

Businesses with five to 99 employees must provide up to five days (40 hours) of paid sick leave per year; 

Businesses with fewer than five employees, but a net income of more than $1 million must provide up to five days (40 hours) of paid sick leave per year; and;

Smaller businesses with fewer than five employees and a net income of less than $1 million must provide up to five days (40 hours) of unpaid sick leave. However, those already providing paid sick leave can continue to do so. 

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "Ensuring paid sick leave for working New Yorkers was a major priority for the Senate Democratic Majority. The coronavirus pandemic has further demonstrated how essential paid sick leave is, and by not penalizing workers for avoiding the workplace when they are ill, we help avoid spreading colds and viruses. I am proud that by working with our Assembly colleagues and Governor Cuomo we were able to get this done."

Speaker Carl E. Heastie said, "The Assembly Majority has always believed that families are the heartbeat of our communities. After being overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to help New Yorkers get back on their feet. The Paid Family Leave provisions in this year's budget will help ensure that New Yorkers can care for themselves or sick loved ones without worrying about losing their jobs and being able to put food on their tables. This is just one step to give New Yorkers the support they need to navigate this difficult time and keep moving forward."

"The lack of a paid sick leave policy was hurting our most vulnerable New Yorkers, and that is simply unacceptable," said New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. "Governor Cuomo has been a champion for workers – and under his leadership, New York has been a progressive leader on issues important to working families. With this new law, we will remain at the forefront of the effort to restore economic parity and secure social justice for all. New Yorkers will no longer have to choose between staying home and getting healthy, or going to work to pay their bills."  

Prior to the law's passage, approximately 1.3 million New Yorkers did not have access to paid sick leave – forcing them to either take unpaid leave and risk losing their jobs or show up to work while sick, potentially spreading communicable diseases to coworkers and the general public. Nearly one-in-four workers had reported being fired or being threatened with termination for taking sick time.   

New York's sick leave law builds on Governor Cuomo's unprecedented actions to protect and uplift workers and their families, including enacting a $15 minimum wage that raised income for 1.5 million New Yorkers and enacting the nation's strongest Paid Family Leave program, which benefitted 128,000 New Yorkers in its first year. 


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