On Thursday morning, the New York City Council overrode a veto by Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) to pass a new paid sick days requirement for businesses with more than 15 employees. Employees at those businesses will earn five paid sick days each year. The law will be implemented in 2014 and initially it will apply to companies with 20 or more employees; after a year and a half it will apply to businesses with 15 or more workers. Smaller businesses will be required to provide their employees with five unpaid sick days.
The victory for both workers and consumers makes New York the fifth city and the largest with a paid sick days requirement. More than 1 million New York City workers will gain access to paid sick leave, joining workers in Portland, Ore., Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The state of Connecticut also requires paid sick days.
Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, said:
For far too long, the notion of taking a day off to care for a sick child or tend to personal health issues was financially unfeasible for many New Yorkers. In a time when so many are living paycheck to paycheck, the thought of losing a day's pay, or the threat of being fired, was enough to make them go to work regardless of whether or not they were well enough to be there.
This legislation will help the sales associate who can now take a sick day, instead of helping customers while battling a long-term illness. This legislation will help the barista fighting the flu to stay home and recuperate, instead of showing up to work sick, for fear of losing wages.
A healthier workforce is a more productive workforce, and I commend the City Council for its decision to allow New Yorkers to protect public safety by protecting their health.
Opponents of the new law say it puts too large a burden upon businesses, but in places where the laws already exist, the opposite has proven to be true:
A recent audit of the paid sick leave law in Washington, D.C., found no negative impact on businesses, while a study of San Francisco found little negative impact and strong support among businesses, and another of Connecticut found a small cost with big potential upsides. San Francisco’s law was found to have spurred job growth.
Despite the law's passage, 40% of private-sector workers still do not have access to paid leave nationally. Eighty percent of low-income workers lack paid sick days.