Monday, October 05, 2009

Taking Leave

Intro 1059 in the City Council would mandate sick leave for even the city's smallest businesses. As City Room has reported: "New York City could soon join San Francisco and Washington in requiring paid sick days for employees — a move that could affect as many as one million workers in the city. On Thursday, the City Council introduced legislation mandating that large employers give workers the ability to earn least nine paid sick days to workers per year, while small businesses who have fewer than 10 employees would earn five sick days."

That was in August, but now the measure has 38 sponsors and is moving forward-but has anyone done a fiscal impact on how the law would affect local small business? One letter writer to the Staten Island Advance put it this way: "I read in the Aug. 31 Advance that Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan) introduced a bill requiring employers to give all their employees paid sick days...When all the business-owners go out of business because of these clowns, and the workers are on unemployment, who then will pay these oppressive taxes?"

He has a point-as do the sponsors who are concerned about the health of NYC residents in the midst of a swine flu outbreak. Jim Dwyer opines on this subject in yesterday's NY Times: "To questions of cost and coverage, add one more detail to the national debate about health care: time. In New York, time may be more important than cost. The city’s empire of public hospitals finds ways to serve hundreds of thousands of people who don’t have enough money or lack private insurance. But people who have no health insurance through their jobs are not likely to have paid sick days, either. By some estimates, 765,000 workers in the city do not get paid when they stay home sick."

But some of the anecdotes-as with the president's use of some compelling narratives in his own quest for health care reform-don't past the smell test: "Whatever its economic and social merits, the bill, if it becomes law, would bring the city into the workplace equivalent of the domestic dispute: intimate, furious, with the truth tied up in tangles." And Dwyer goes on to relate the story of one sick leave-taking worker-with two distinct and contradictory tales of what actual had happened.

Dwyer does point out, that there are many small businesses that do provide for sick days for their workers, because it makes good sense to keep good employees that you depend on: "There are plenty of employers who do give their employees time off when they are sick, because it’s good for business. “You get more committed people if you stick with them when they have their crisis,” said Freddy Castiblanco, owner of the Terraza 7 Train Cafe in Elmhurst, Queens, just down the block from the 82nd Street stop of the No. 7 train."

Still, the road to hell, well, you know the rest. If this mandate passes, will it put an unfair burden on struggling businesses-leading to more failures and less jobs? Our friend Albor Ruiz believes that the benefits outweigh whatever the costs might be-and perhaps he's right. But what will the costs end up being? This is vital to know before the legislation is enacted, and the city council must take a long look before it leaps here.