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New York Post

 

This Benefits Bill Is Sick

August 07, 2012

By Nicole Gelinas

PRINTER FRIENDLY

Puts low-pay workers at risk

A year ahead of the mayoral race, pro-"labor" advocates are trying to strongarm City Council Speaker Christine Quinn into holding a vote on a bill requiring employers to offer sick leave. Quinn should keep resisting, as she did when the topic last came up two years ago: The bill could cost the city thousands of entry-level jobs.

The bill would require larger businesses to offer workers nine paid days a year, with a doctor’s note required after three days. Employers with fewer than 20 workers would have to offer five days.

At a hearing two years ago, advocates argued that the mandate would cost employers almost nothing. "It’s eight cents an hour per service worker," Upper West Side Councilwoman Gale Brewer claimed (and 23 cents an hour for workers in other industries). Sherry Leiwant, executive director of the advocacy group A Better Balance, said, "This is not an expensive bill."

But in a city of 3.2 million private-sector workers, pennies add up.

The business-backed Partnership for New York City, which opposes the measure, commissioned an accountancy study that says it would cost employers $789 million a year. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which supports it, puts the annual cost at $332 million.

Let’s split the difference, and call the cost $561 million.

Money has to come from somewhere, and some of this cost will translate to fewer jobs. Indeed, at the city’s average wage rate, $31 an hour, that half-a-billion-plus works out to 10,500 jobs. (Yes, employers could cut elsewhere for some of the money — but payroll is a huge part of the costs that a business can actually control.)

And higher-paid jobs are more likely to already come with sick days, so this mandate is more likely to fall on lower-wage workers. At $10 an hour, on the average 34.5-hour workweek, the loss could be 32,500 jobs — or nearly 1 percent of private-sector jobs.

The citywide unemployment rate was already 10.3 percent in June. The Bronx rate was 14 percent; Brooklyn’s, 11 percent.

The bill also willfully misunderstands the hardship of running a business — and since most councilmembers have signed on, it means they don’t understand business, or don’t want to.

Most businesses that don’t offer sick leave aren’t large corporations. As the Partnership found, 82 percent of workers at large companies had paid sick leave, and 62 percent of workers at small firms.

And more people had some general paid time off. Overall, of New York’s generally lower-paid hourly workers, those at large companies could take nine days and those at small companies could take seven.

Why don’t all employers offer sick days? Because they can’t afford to. The construction and restaurant industries, for example, score low because they have low margins.

Small employers that can’t pass higher costs onto customers would end up doing more work themselves, at the cost of jobs or hours for other people.

Nor does the council understand employers’ need for judgment and flexibility. A shop owner who’s spent years finding employees she can trust with the cash till is unlikely to dock a longtime worker who has shown up steadily and suddenly gets sick for a week.

But some employees chronically call in sick when they’re not sick — or not that sick. Schedulers need reliable employees, and so workers who are frequently absent get fewer hours.

But the council bill would leave any employer who takes such measures at risk of a lawsuit. The bill says that "if negative action is taken within 90 days of taking a sick day, there is a rebuttable presumption that such action is in retaliation."

In other words, an employer could face legal action for gradually giving the woman who shows up without fail more hours to work every week than the guy with mysterious physical or mental ailments.

This bill would also harm single mothers. Potential employers are likely to figure that a woman with three small children and no husband will need more time off to care for her kids.

Employers aren’t supposed to ask about family — but small-business hiring is often word of mouth. They can choose the college student with no other responsibilities over the woman with several young kids.

That’s life — something that advocates and elected officials don’t grasp.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/this_benefits_bill_is_sick_qnHXRqb5U5cjcGL18EF2WN

 

 
 
 

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