Mar 14, 2014 | PERMALINK »
Working for Business: Effects of Connecticut's Earned Sick Leave Law
In 2011, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to establish a statewide sick days standard. The law requires all businesses that employ 50 or more individuals, excluding manufacturers and nationally chartered nonprofits, to provide hourly workers with one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to five days per year. The law also prohibits employers from taking retaliatory or discriminatory action against employees who use paid leave.
The authors of the report conducted a survey of 251 employers covered by the law and did on-site interviews with managers. Despite business owners' fears when the legislation was proposed, the survey revealed that the paid sick leave law has had little or no impact on employers. In fact, most employers are now in favor of it. “A year and a half after the law went into effect,” the report says, “more than three-quarters of the employers responding to our survey indicated that they now supported the law.”
Most employers reported that they addressed employee sick leave absences using cost-free measures such as assigning work to other employees, swapping shifts, or putting the work on hold. As a result, almost half of employers reported that implementing the law had no effect at all on their bottom line. Another 19 percent reported minimal cost increases of less than two percent.
Claims that earned sick leave would be a “job killer” also proved to be unfounded. As the report notes, “in the period since it took effect, employment levels rose in key sectors covered by the law, such as hospitality and health services, while employment fell in manufacturing, which is exempt from the law.”
During a webinar hosted by the National Partnership for Women and Families, Ruth Milkman, who co-authored the report with Eileen Appelbaum, said employer fears that the law would result in abuse were unfounded. “In fact, it seems clear that workers treat this as a form of insurance,” she noted. “They save it for when they need it.” The study found that 86 percent of employers observed no abuse.
Many employers also reported positive effects of the law, such as improved morale, increased productivity, and reduced spread of illness. In addition, as one human resource manager in the hotel industry noted, “the law ties into retention and turnover in a positive way.”
Lindsay Farrell of Connecticut Working Families said during the webinar that there has not been a business community presence during recent legislative attempts to weaken the law. “They don't care,” she explained. “They thought this would be terrible and it isn't.”
As this report demonstrates, paid sick leave laws have brought many positive effects to Connecticut employers without placing a burden on business. At a time when many states and localities are considering similar legislation, it is important that we separate fact from fiction and learn from Connecticut's experience. This report goes a long way toward ensuring businesses, the public, and policymakers have a clearer picture of the effects of earned sick time on our communities.
Mar 10, 2014 | PERMALINK »
Unstable Work Schedules Hurt Economy, Communities, and Families
Imagine if your work schedule changed from week to week or even from day to day. Imagine being scheduled to work 40 hours one week and 15 hours the next, with no warning of these fluctuations. Imagine paying for child care, only to have your manager send you home without pay, claiming there aren’t enough customers for you to work your shift. For many lower-wage workers, it doesn’t take much imagination at all to conjure up these scenarios.
A new report by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Retail Action Project (RAP), and Women Employed reveals that unstable and unpredictable work schedules have severe implications for hourly-wage workers, as well as businesses and consumer spending. The report highlights two policy approaches that would lift up the economy and give workers a boost so that they can cover the basics.
Tackling Unstable and Unpredictable Work Schedules examines the recent trend toward “just-in-time” scheduling practices, where employers schedule workers based on fluctuating consumer demand, which they monitor from day to day or even hour to hour.
These struggles aren’t unusual; a study of 17 major U.S. corporations in various industries found that only three gave more than a week’s notice of schedules. Another study focusing on one major U.S. retailer found that 59 percent of full-time hourly workers experienced fluctuations in either the days or hours of their shifts from week to week.
Two approaches that some employers are taking create jobs with better conditions while meeting business needs. For example, Costco jobs guarantee a minimum number of hours each week. Cooperative Home Care Associates, a home care staffing agency, has a program that guarantees participating employees a set number of paid hours per week, even if they are not ultimately needed to work all of those hours. In addition to these voluntary minimum hours policies, some collective bargaining agreements and many states’ laws require employers to pay a set amount even if they send a worker home early or decide the worker is not needed for a shift (known as “reporting pay”).
Erratic schedules can cause workers to lose wages and jobs, which leaves them unable to pay for basic goods. Businesses should be concerned. In fact, Wal-Mart was recently the focus of press coverage as it weighed whether to support an increase in the federal minimum wage—a choice driven by the company’s reliance on low-wage workers not only as employees but also as customers. Just as Wal-Mart is waking up to how wages matter to the company and the larger economy, it is time for businesses to realize that unstable scheduling practices are a part of the picture, too.
With nearly 8 million hourly-wage workers in the U.S., many of whom struggle to pay the bills and cover the rent, it’s clear that change is needed. We need public policies that make it possible for working families to get by—and this includes policies that help to create good jobs. Stable and predictable schedules are a key piece of the job quality puzzle.
Mar 4, 2014 | PERMALINK »
Budget Proposal Invests in Paid Leave
President Obama’s budget proposal, released today, sends a strong endorsement of policies that support working families – and that includes family leave. The proposal includes a total of $105 million to support a State Paid Leave Fund. These funds would provide technical assistance and support to states considering following in the footsteps of California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island -- the only states in the country to offer paid family leave insurance. The proposal has both a base budget, which offers his priorities for spending within the agreed-upon spending limits in his base budget, and an Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, which would fund additional priorities by closing tax loopholes and making other reforms. The latter initiative includes $100 million for the paid leave fund, while the base budget includes $5 million for the State Paid Leave Fund, as it has in previous years. The base budget also strengthens enforcement of existing laws, including the unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), by calling for an increase of more than $41 million for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.
As Americans express growing concern about increasing inequalities in our society, the President’s support for paid leave appropriately targets a policy that is crucial for low-wage workers. Only 5 percent of low-wage workers have access to paid family leave. Furthermore, workers from communities of color – regardless of their income -- are far less likely to have paid leave, with only 25 percent of Latino workers having access. As a result of widespread lack of paid leave, low-wage workers often forgo leave or take far too little time to care for loved ones. Of those workers earning below the median family income, more than half report losing all their income when they take family or medical leave. However, in states where paid leave is available, workers and businesses are thriving. For example, in California, 91 percent of workers surveyed report a positive effect on their ability to care for a new child, and nine out of ten employers report positive or no effects on business operations.
The budget highlights the Administration’s strong support for an increased minimum wage, while also directing resources towards enforcement of the current minimum wage. The increased Wage and Hour Division funding, which would allow for the hiring of 300 new investigators across the country, will help to ensure that workers earn the minimum wage, get paid for overtime, and are protected from workplace injuries. Moreover, the funding would help with enforcement of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which celebrated its 21st anniversary last month. The FMLA provides job-protected, unpaid leave to about half of all workers. For these workers, the guarantee that their job will be held for them while they recover from serious illness, bond with a new child, or care for a sick loved one, is crucial to economic and family stability. However, without strong enforcement of the FMLA and other labor standards, many workers are denied their rights. The President’s allocation of considerable new funding for the Wage and Hour Division is designed to protect the most vulnerable workers from unscrupulous employers.
Today’s budget proposal is in keeping with Americans’ concerns with equality and opportunity for all workers. In particular, the significant investment in both paid leave and unpaid leave enforcement, as well as enforcement of other labor standards, stands to make a real difference in the lives of low-income families across the country.