Is New York state moving towards requiring all employers to provide time off for breast cancer screening?

And why adopting an even broader policy could be the right thing for employers to do...

Breast Cancer Screening

According to the Susan G. Komen organization there were almost a quarter of a million new cases of breast cancer in the U.S. last year. It’s estimated that over forty thousand people died as a result of having breast cancer. The good news is that breast cancer is treatable, particularly when it’s caught early. To that end, New York State has introduced a policy for all public workers in the state to be able to receive paid time off to get checked.

According to the state, the program will:

  • Require 210 hospitals and hospital extension clinics to offer extended hours of screening for at least four hours per week to help women who have difficulty scheduling mammograms during the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday. These hours include 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday or Sunday;
  • Eliminate annual deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance payments (“cost-sharing”) for all screening mammograms, including those provided to women more frequently than current federal screening guidelines such as annual mammograms for women in their forties;
  • Eliminate cost-sharing for diagnostic imaging for breast cancer, including diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasounds, and breast MRIs for women at high risk for breast cancer. As a result, women in need of tests other than standard mammograms will not have to pay any additional out-of-pocket expenses for these most common diagnostic tests;
  • Current state law requires all public employers to provide their employees with four hours of leave each year for breast cancer screening. Now public employees in New York City will receive the same benefit as all other public employees statewide.

In addition to making this change for public employers, the state is encouraging private employers to adopt these policies as well. While private employers are not required to adopt these policies, several large private employers across the state have implemented or are in the process of implementing these measures.

What does this mean for employers?

Policies that the state encourages employers to voluntarily implement do not always remain voluntary, and so private employers should be proactive in exploring how they might adopt these policies.

While considering how to implement specific components of the policy, particularly the four hours of leave for breast cancer screening, a best practice to consider would be to make any leave policy for screening broad enough to encompass screenings for other types of cancers, HIV/AIDS, and other medical conditions. Why? To provide an opportunity to employees to take a proactive approach to their own health. Screenings are important components of employee health and wellness. Early detection can save lives, lead to lower disease rates, reduced employer health care costs, reduced absenteeism, and increased productivity. Of course, as an employer it is perfectly acceptable to require that employees document that the leave is being used as intended, and provide a note from their provider that the screening actually occured. 

Do you have questions about adopting a leave policy like this? HR One can help write and implement this type of policy for your organization. Use the form below to contact us for more information.