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Editorial: Bereavement benefit is bad for business

Editorial: Bereavement benefit is bad for business

Companies would be unnecessarily hurt by unrestricted 12-week bereavement leave
Editorial: Bereavement benefit is bad for business
Photographer: Shutterstock

There’s no question that losing a loved one can be traumatic.

And certainly, businesses should be sympathetic and accommodating to their workers whenever an employee suffers a death in the family.

But the state Legislature wants employers to bear an inordinate share of that burden.

A bill (A10639A/S8380) that passed the Senate and Assembly in May would require that under the newly passed  Paid Family Leave Act, employers would have to allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of bereavement time following the death of a family member.

In addition to requiring the three months of grieving time, the bill provides no timeline for how much notice the employee would have to give his employer before taking the time off and sets no limits on when the bereavement could begin and therefore end.

If you’re an employer trying to run a business that relies on the ability to schedule employees in a timely manner or one in which you can’t go very long operating short-handed, this new mandate is going to hit you particularly hard.

That’s especially true of small businesses, businesses in the service trade and those that require employees to perform very specialized tasks.

If an employer specifically needs someone to fill a position for three months, it has several options under this bill, all of which hurt the employer.

The company can operate without that employee and place the burden on other employees to pick up the slack. That might require paying those employees overtime, stressing the staff and potentially affecting service or performance.

The business might have to go out and hire someone temporarily to fill the position until the bereaved employee returns. Such a process can be time-consuming and costly.

Those additional burdens are ultimately going to be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices and lower-quality service.

And because the state Labor Department is now formulating the final rules on how much notice employers must give employees on scheduling and determining the level of extra pay the employer must provide for workers called in on very short notice, the burden on businesses will be even more onerous.

Employers in the U.S. provide employees an average of three to five days off for bereavement. Employers that want to retain their employees and maintain a good relationship with them are often flexible in allowing additional time through use of vacation time, personal time, sick days and flexible schedules.

New York businesses already face some of the highest taxes and most restrictive regulations in the country. The state doesn’t need to throw yet another roadblock in the way of their success.

When this bill gets to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk, he should veto it.

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