NEW YORK — As more cities mandate paid sick days for workers, the reaction from many small businesses is a big, so what?
New York City and two New Jersey cities, Jersey City and Newark, are the latest to require employers to give workers paid time off when they’re ill or to care for sick relatives. San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Portland, Ore. and Connecticut already had sick leave laws.
Similar legislation elsewhere has been a bust because of opposition from business groups and some public officials. In Philadelphia, for instance, Mayor Michael Nutter has vetoed sick leave bills twice saying they threaten jobs and make the city less attractive to new business. The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce also lobbied against the laws because of worries that businesses would flee. And the National Federation of Independent Business says when you add government-mandated sick leave to the minimum wage increases that are happening in some states, it equals rising labor costs for small businesses.
But preliminary research shows the laws have little, if any, downside for profits. And many small businesses say they don’t find complying with the laws a burden. Many already gave employees paid sick time before the laws were passed. And having paid sick time makes employees happy.
“If you’re sick and can’t make it into work, it gives you security,” says Leonardo Lima, who works for an electronics repair shop in New York. He was getting paid sick leave before the law was passed.
Research in Connecticut, whose sick leave law went into effect in 2012, shows a minimal financial effect. A report released this month by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the City University of New York’s Murphy Institute said many of the Connecticut businesses already had paid sick leave. Nearly 47 percent of 251 companies surveyed said the law hadn’t affected costs. Only 6.5 percent said costs rose 5 percent or more. And 60 percent said keeping records was somewhat or very easy. The think tank’s research tends to support paid time off for workers, including family and medical leave.