New state laws are taking effect this month, including an increase in the minimum wage to $10.40 an hour in upstate. That’s a $0.70 increase from the end of 2017, and the wage will continue rising to $12.50 an hour by the end of 2020.
In addition, New York's new paid family leave program is now in effect. The program will allow workers to get paid a portion of their earnings while they take time off to tend to a new child or sick relative.
Assemblyman Al Stirpe (D-Cicero) says the program will keep people in work, which helps all New Yorkers.
“If they have to take that unpaid, it really causes a problem,” Stirpe said. “They don’t end up going back to work, they end up on Medicaid, food stamps – all sorts of government handouts. So in this way we are able to stabilize those families, make sure they have enough to keep going during those periods of time.”
Stirpe says the paid family leave program will also help businesses because they will not have to resort to hiring and training a replacement.
“That’s usually a lot more cost and a lot more inconvenient,” Stirpe said. “Being able to maintain a steady, trained workforce is better in the long run.”
But Greg Biryla is not so sure. He's executive director of Unshackle Upstate, which represents chambers of commerce and trade associations across upstate. Biryla says many businesses are concerned about the new employer mandates - particularly paid family leave.
“There’s been a real lot of confusion among employers, particularly among small employers, on how exactly to implement that to make sure they are in compliance with the new state mandate,” Biryla said.
As another legislative session gets underway, Biryla says New York lawmakers need to focus on several reforms to bolster economic growth, like ending "short-sighted, one-size-fits all employer mandates that drive up the cost of business."