The majority of businesses in New York must now provide workers with five to seven days of paid sick time.

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On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo 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 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, officials say.

"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," 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."

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.

"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," Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul added. "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.

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, according to Cuomo's office.

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