Sick Days and Family Medical Leave

The nation has entered an exciting new era that will allow millions of lower-wage workers to access health care insurance. Tragically, many of these workers will be unable to take advantage of this historic new benefit because they cannot take time off of work to get the care they need due to lack of earned  sick days.  With no job protections or paid sick leave, these workers face impossible choices between taking time to access healthcare for themselves or their loved ones and potentially losing wages or even their jobs.

At the same time, the nation is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an historic act that allowed many workers time to care for themselves or their loved ones. However, many workers are unable to take advantage of this policy, which guarantees only unpaid leave, because they cannot afford to take to with family without pay. Many more remain ineligible for even unpaid leave, because their employer is exempt from the policy or they have insufficient tenure in their job.

As part of its work life and job quality work, CLASP advocates for state and federal earned sick days and paid family and medical leave insurance policies that will prevent more workers from being denied the time to tend to their own or a family member's health, or care for a new child. Across the country, campaigns to secure these workplace protections for all workers are gaining momentum.

May 16, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

During Healthy Families Act Days of Action, Business Owners Stress Benefits of Paid Sick Time

By Zoe Ziliak Michel

This week, more than 30 jurisdictions across the country are celebrating the success of their paid sick time laws and calling on Congress to pass the federal Healthy Families Act (HFA). During these “Days of Action,” which culminate on June 15 with events for both houses of Congress in Washington, D.C., employers who have implemented local and state paid sick time laws will share an important message with businesses nationwide: you have nothing to fear.

When faced with new paid sick time laws, some employers fear the laws will be bad for business. In most cases, these concerns prove unfounded when the law is actually implemented.

Tony Juliano, former general manager of XES Lounge in New York City, explains that before the city’s paid sick time law passed, “there were concerns that I and other small businesses had. But as it turns out, it hasn’t had the kind of impact that I worried about. Not even close. And in fact, the impact that I saw in my business was a much stronger bond between ourselves and our employees, higher productivity, and a more successful business, not a less successful business.”

As president of the local chamber of commerce at the time, Juliano was concerned “that the law might put some small employers out of business or at least make them cut jobs. But in fact, I don’t know anybody that has actually had to cut people because of this policy. I also thought there might be abuse.  But in our case there was no abuse. There was absolutely no abuse.”

Once the law took effect, Juliano saw that his employees not only enjoyed greater financial stability with paid sick time, but also showed greater loyalty to the business. The policy helped him retain valued employees who showed real dedication to their work. “It really has a lot to do with motivating employees, getting higher productivity, and improving the employee-employer relationship. It also allows them to pay their rent. So there’s real benefit on both sides.” He adds, “I talk to other employers. I think many would agree with me.”

Research suggests that the HFA will allow business owners nationwide to enjoy the same benefits Juliano has seen. Evidence from several jurisdictions shows that paid sick time laws have not hurt employers. One and a half years after Connecticut became the first state to implement a paid sick time law, researchers found that the law had had either no or small financial effects on businesses, most employers said their employees did not abuse their sick time, and three quarters of employers supported the law. In the first year New York City’s law was in effect, the city’s unemployment rate plummeted and new private-sector businesses opened 36 percent faster than they did the previous year. Moreover, a new cross-jurisdictional study has found no evidence of declining wages or employment rates in places with paid sick time laws.

These studies underscore why business owners and managers like Tony Juliano support paid sick time legislation. They find that offering paid sick time helps them retain good employees and keep their workplaces healthy. This week’s HFA Days of Action will promote these crucial benefits to lawmakers and the nation.

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