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Paid family leave nears City Council vote in Schenectady

Paid family leave nears City Council vote in Schenectady

City Council likely to vote July 22
Paid family leave nears City Council vote in Schenectady
Schenectady City Hall is pictured.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY — The city is preparing to vote on a paid family leave policy. 

City Council President Ed Kosiur initially planned on bringing the resolution to a vote last week, but tabled the measure in order to receive confirmation from the city’s finance commissioner that the policy would carry no additional cost to the city.

“I have no problem with this,” city Finance Commissioner Anthony Ferrari told Kosiur in an email. 

Under the proposed program, city employees would pay a small fee into an insurance benefit program and would be paid a percentage of their earnings when taking time off to care for a family member. 

Employees contribute 0.153 percent of their gross wages each pay period, up to a cap, so someone making $52,000 annually would pay around $1.52 per week.

As part of a new state law that took effect on Jan. 1, 2018, private employers in New York state are mandated to provide paid leave for new parents, medical caregivers and family members of those deployed abroad to active military service for 10 weeks. It rises to 12 weeks by 2021.

The public sector is exempt.

The state law, which is being phased in over four years, is funded entirely through employee payroll contributions.

For city employees to be eligible, they must work for 20 hours per week for 26 consecutive weeks, which shuts out seasonal employees. City council members and the mayor are also ineligible.

About 85 percent of the city’s workforce of 584 employees is unionized, and unions must sign off on any involvement.

“Overall, the support was overwhelming,” said Kosiur of two prior information sessions attended by union members.

The state program currently offers employees on family leave 55 percent of their average weekly wage. The timeline is scheduled to reach 67 percent pay by 2021.

Councilman John Polimeni said he wasn't against the legislation, but had asked Kosiur to ensure the policy carried no administrative costs during the initial set-up.

Kosiur said the city’s only role is to collect payroll costs. The time spent by city employees on administrative tasks is negligible, he said, and most of the application burden falls upon the employee. 

Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo said the application process is extensive and requires proof of the circumstances for which the employee is asking for leave. 

“It minimizes concerns of gaming the system,” she said.

Kosiur said he anticipated the full City Council will vote on the item at their July 22 meeting.

If approved, Schenectady would be one of the few municipalities in the region with a paid family leave policy. 

Correction 7/16/19: This story has been corrected to include the proper employee contribution figure as a percentage, rather than a flat amount.

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