COVID SICK LEAVE LEGISLATION AND RULES NEED TO BE REFORMED
Almost two years into the public health crisis posed by COVID, construction contractors of all kinds around the State of New York are feeling the pain of well meaning but poorly structured legislation and regulations aimed at assisting workers who have been stricken with the virus.
In the early days of this public health crisis, state legislators and regulators adopted emergency measures to protect workers by providing paid sick leave going beyond that originally provided in our member subcontractor’s collective bargaining agreements. The result is that the two paid sick leave laws enacted in Albany along with NYS Department of Labor regulations and requirements, have become economically unsustainable for subcontractors, especially those whose workforce has been hard hit by COVID. The STA has been made aware of some members having to pay well into the “six figures” for this sick leave while struggling to keep their jobs open because of widespread illness among their projects’ workforce.
Consequently, the STA has played a key role in getting the various associations under the umbrella of the Building Trades Employers’ Association (BTEA) to unite in seeking change to the COVID sick leave legislation proving to be most injurious to contractors. As a result, the BTEA has begun to push the Governor’s Office on reforms that would take some of the burden off of employers for payment of excessive benefits for workers who have tested positive for COVID (or have had to quarantine) and subsequently gone out on sick leave in large numbers for extended periods of time.
Basically, the BTEA strategy for seeking contractor relief from these COVID sick leave provisions is aimed at seeking modifications in two areas.
- Amend legislation that would consolidate the COVID Sick Pay Benefits with the Paid Family Sick Leave Benefit.
- Rescind some of the policies mandated by the New York State Department of Labor with respect to how these benefits must be provided.
The argument being made by the BTEA for COVID sick leave reform is a simple one…”just as health related laws, policies and procedures have been adjusted over time to reflect the changing health environment, so too should the laws, policies and procedures that have implications for the economics affecting businesses be adjusted also.”
For far too long, the State of New York has placed an unreasonable burden on union subcontractors to make employees whole during a time when large number of those employees have gone out on COVID sick leave for extended periods of time.
The STA will continue to work with the BTEA and other local and state trade contractor associations to get the current COVID sick leave legislation and regulations amended to take the full financial burden of the impact of the pandemic off of the shoulders of the employers. We will keep you posted on the progress being made in this area and will continue to advocate on your behalf to get these unreasonable rules and regulations changed.