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Slightly more than 60 percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll oppose New York requiring firms to provide paid sick leave.
With this year’s unusually severe flu outbreak has come renewed debate over the issue of paid sick leave, which is not mandated by the federal government or 49 of the 50 states.
In New York, roughly 38 percent of private-sector workers are employed by companies that do not provide paid sick leave, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research. Nationally, 40 percent of private-sector workers and more than 80 percent of low-wage workers do not have paid sick days, the National Partnership for Women & Families reports.
Connecticut has enacted legislation mandating paid sick leave; it took effect in January 2012. Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., also have mandates. Legislation has been introduced in Washington and in Albany, among other state capitals. The Paid Sick Leave Act introduced in Albany would require firms with fewer than 10 employees to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave annually; all other businesses would be required to provide up to 80 hours.
Proponents say mandated leave is needed because many people who cannot afford to stay home and lose pay go to work when sick, spreading illness to co-workers. Also, lower-paid workers in food service, retail and health care industries are least likely now to have paid sick leave.
Opponents argue that businesses would respond to higher mandated costs by reducing workers’ pay or cutting jobs. In addition, a mandate purportedly would encourage some employees to game the system, forcing their co-workers to carry a heavier burden.
More than 640 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Feb. 11 to 13.
Should New York require firms to provide paid sick leave (five days annually for firms with fewer than 10 employees, 10 days for all others)?
When will the guilt-ridden do-gooders realize that every new law is slowly destroying our country? Please let the free market take care of things. After almost 240 years, it works pretty well.
—T. Alan, West Henrietta
Common sense with regard to public health and human decency dictates paid sick leave.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design, Interiors
I think that New York should require all firms to provide five days’ paid sick leave annually. Ten days would be very difficult to manage in my business of 25 employees. With two weeks’ paid vacation and two weeks’ sick leave, that would be a full month off for each person. That would mean I would need to have an added two employees cross-trained to cover the off time of staff. The 10 sick days would require one added staffer to cover that. However, I think that five days allows for taking paid time off for flu or colds or other basic illness.
—Jim DeLuca, Abundance Cooperative Market
New York (Albany) should be responsible to keep businesses in New York, not try to create means to have them leave or go out of business. One thing New York and Washington have in common is that they are totally out of control.
All of our employees who work full time receive five days of sick leave, and it is pro-rated for those working half time or greater. It is extremely difficult for low-income employees to forego work in the case of illness, which leads them to work and spread infection to other employees or clients. I believe some sick leave is appropriate. However, 80 hours per year is prohibitive in cost, especially for any company that has not provided any sick leave up until now.
—Betty Mullin-DiProsa, president and CEO, St. Ann's Community
You want to chase more small businesses out of New York? Just pass this legislation and watch what happens. As a business owner with fewer than10 employees, I'd take steps to reduce the number of employees below 10 while looking to create any new jobs in a more business-friendly state. The authors of this bill must have never had their own business.
—Mark Redding, Poseidon Systems LLC
As we experience severe flu seasons, it's important that people be able to stay home to minimize the spread of illnesses. Also, the use of sick leave should not be limited to the individual's illness but should apply to children or dependents who require care.
I am sure the proponents of this mandate do not know a thing about running a business. Taxing a profitable business, I can understand. Forcing a for-profit business to pay for expenses is bordering socialistic and the only effect is to drive business away from New York State. Not every business is profitable. Many business owners make personal sacrifices to build their business. Are you telling them to work harder and make less (or lose more) so employees can get pay for not producing 10 more days a year? There are enough state and federal mandates burdening businesses large and small. If people wonder why the unemployment rate is stubbornly high, just look at the disincentives the government has invented to tell employers not to hire. Plain and simple.
This would just be another example of New York State causing its businesses to be at a competitive disadvantage when compared to neighboring states. Paid sick time should be a decision left to every employer. Government needs to learn to keep their cumbersome hands out of private business.
While it is a novel idea, adding the additional burden of this expense on small-business owners will prove to be crippling. No small-business owner has sick time; they can be sick but don’t have the luxury of paid sick leave. In New York we already have exorbitant insurance expenses, thanks to the scaffolding laws. The sick leave policy should be left up to the business owner, who can assess the financial implications on the organization.
—John Stevens, owner, ICM/R.S. Media
I've worked for myself for much of my life. I don't work, I don't get paid. When I look at the amount of time taken by those people who think they have to use their sick time or lose it, it is appalling. The consumer or the taxpayer always picks up their tab.
—Angelo Mancuso, White Hot Films
So Connecticut makes a huge assumption and it should be the law of the land. What if they are wrong? Who will pay for this? How do we ensure that people are actually sick when they take sick leave? Shouldn't everybody get the same sick time, the same vacation time, the same pay and benefits? That is the only thing that is fair. Let's pay everybody's health insurance, raise minimum wage to whatever Warren Buffett makes and we will all be happy, healthy and rich! I'll sue you for everything you are worth, and you do the same to me! Who is John Galt?
Paid sick leave is another "perk" that can be (and frequently is) easily abused, just like workers’ compensation insurance. We have unpaid leave laws on the books already. Let companies decide, based on their own circumstances. We don't need our poorly managed and run government telling our successful companies how to do anything else. They already have more than they can handle just trying to operate in New York.
—George Thomas, Ogden
Of course businesses should be required to pay people to stay at home. There should also be paid flat-tire days. Businesses should also pay overtime to employees tardy because of trains (while they wait). Complementary breakfasts, lunches and dinners with doggie bags should be mandatory and on the clock. Any time spent in the bathroom facilities should be added as comp time to allow employees build up extra days off with pay. If the job we're talking about is in manufacturing, employers should install machines and equipment in their employees’ garages to eliminate commuting to work. The people who get stuck traveling to work should get paid to do so—both ways. How about pay for thinking about work? If people are at home on the weekend and think about work, just inform your boss and he should add those hours to your paycheck. This is the best one—if an employee is out on paid vacation and gets sick, they have to get double time! Is anyone else sick (pun intended) and tired of idiots who do not create anything, making policy or decisions for the people who do? Fools couldn't run a project, much less a company. On the other hand, for the people who don't have generous benefits, find another job. There is a reason low-wage workers don't have benefits comparable to high-wage workers.
On the federal level, the Family and Medical Leave Act should be expanded to cover more workers and to provide at least some weeks of pay, beyond the individual worker's paid sick leave. Very few workers can afford to take advantage of the full benefit of FMLA because very few workers can afford to go that long without pay. In the absence of federal action on this issue, New York State could create a state version of FMLA with a similar requirement of paid leave.
The details for this are crucial. Any mandated paid sick time should be restricted to a situation where, due to their own medical condition, the employee is unable to reasonably perform their duties or is a hazard to others in the workplace. Unpaid absence should be permitted for the many other circumstances that cause employees to miss work. To permit a mandated program to be as open-ended as many of the voluntary sick-leave programs is to foist yet another government-based expense on the private sector.
—D. Kennedy, Webster
I have worked for a small-minded employer of fewer than 40 people in Geneseo who offered no paid sick leave. If you were ill, you either used your vacation time or went in to work because you didn't want to lose your vacation time subsequently infecting the entire office. Employees were treated poorly to begin with, and inadequate policies like unpaid sick leave only aggravated an already lousy work environment. If employers don't have enough decency or common sense to offer paid sick leave, then the government should make it easy for them and mandate it.
—M. Curtain, Rochester
I don't believe anyone should be required to pay for sick days, there is supplemental insurance for that reason. Most companies have to pay overtime or bring someone in to cover for a sick person so they are paying double when a person is out sick. I think the worst example of paying for sick days is in the education field. We contract with a superintendent of school and agreed to pay them a sizable fee to work 12 months a year. We throw in a large about of vacation time and a fair about of personal days, then we give them sick days. We have already agreed to pay them for 12 months. When they take a sick day, does the money to compensate them for the sick day come out of another fund someplace? When they leave a school district to move on or retire, we pay them a second time for all the sick days they didn't use. Aren't we paying them twice for the unused sick days?
—John Weaver, retired
Please! I say this gender neutrally: Man up!
It depends on the position. If the employee can't work from home, then yes, they should have sick time. But for a salaried position where the employee can work at home, it seems unnecessary. And, quite honestly, something like a nagging minor cold is more vacation-day-worthy than sick-day-worthy.
We have far too much "something for nothing" already, and who would control the abuse? If a merchant does not sell a thing all day, who steps in and picks up the expense? There is your answer!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
This is another government intrusion. I would agree if they also added a mandatory small-business profit minimum. Then if a company could not make a profit because of all the government mandates, the government would guarantee a reasonable profit to small business. This would be paid by the government, which obviously has the money! A business that does not offer competitive benefits will lose out in the labor market in the long run.
—Eric Muench, president, Genesistems Inc.
While I believe that offering some time off for sick leave makes good business sense for most companies, I resent the fact that state government is yet again dictating to business another law. The RBJ just polled their readers on the state's proposed minimum wage issue. When will our state get out of the way and let business owners decide for themselves what is best for their businesses? New York is "open for business." Really?
—Mike Charland, Webster
—John Schantz Jr., Schantz Homes Inc.
We provide five paid days a year for personal time which includes sick time, medical appointments, or special occasions for which our employees may wish to take off. If we are required to provide five paid days exclusively for sick days, then we would have to eliminate the personal days. Also if we are required to provide them, are we required to accumulate them if they are not used? When you add vacation time (two to three weeks), holidays (seven) days, and personal time (five days), you are providing four to five paid weeks off. It's important to take care of your good workers. Forcing companies to pay 10 days of sick leave is excessive and drives up the selling price of their products, making them less competitive and their products more expensive to the consumer. Excessively paid employee benefits helped put the entire European economy in horrible shape and that is where we are headed with this kind of proposal for paid 10 days. Then people cry about outsourcing and work getting shifted to overseas. Companies can't keep giving more, they choose options to keep their costs down. If productivity increased proportionally than that would offset it, but it doesn't.
—Bill Cox, Marktec Products Inc.
Let's join the rest of the industrialized world!
—Tom Gillett, NYSUT
This state pushes us around more than enough. I wish I could relocate to Texas; these laws may force me to. My staff has paid time off. They can use it to be sick or go to Hawaii. If the week becomes mandatory, they will still get the same paid time off.
—Daniel Mossien, architect
Whatever. Aren't we supposed to be making New York a business-friendly state? Doesn't anyone else think that if a startup was looking for a home, they would be fleeing New York State like a startled deer?
—Lou Calarese, Applied Audio and Theatre Supply
Mandated? No way. Paid sick leave? Why beg to be lied to? Just allot a number of days for planned and unplanned that are paid. Why bother entertaining what they are for?
—Doug Strang, S&S Engineering PC
New York is already the most regulated state in the nation. We don't need more regulations with know-nothing politically connected bureaucrats to administer the regulation. Paid sick leave is already a highly abused benefit. Common sense employers that haven't already left the state will make appropriate accommodations for persons that need paid time off for legitimate sick needs.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield
All time-off benefits (vacation, paid time off and sick time) should be bundled under one accrual and earned with each paycheck, then taken as needed, whether planned or unplanned. Management should have the right to send a sick employee home if deemed to be a risk to other employees or clients/patients/residents.
What a great idea! But, just to make sure that nobody thought of the two weeks of paid time off as extra vacation days, we should mandate that everyone has 10 weeks of paid vacation. (Five weeks if you have fewer than 10 employees). We would have so much vacation we would never need to abuse sick time. Then we should follow up with a law requiring everyone to make a million dollars a year. Everyone would be millionaires! Think of all the income tax revenues!
2/15/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.