Paid Sick Leave in NYC: It Just Makes Sense

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A new law recently implemented in New York City is a significant step in the right direction for improving the rights of workers.

On April 1, 2014, an updated paid sick leave law took effect. The measure requires businesses with five or more employees to provide sick leave to employees caring for themselves or their relatives. After taking office, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that paid sick leave would be extended to cover more employees in the city, and he was now fulfilled that promise. Because of the law, 1.2 million more workers in New York will have paid sick leave, many of whom work low to minimum wage jobs.

Skeptics worried about the possible negative effects the new policy would have on businesses. Some small business owners were worried that they wouldn’t be able to afford paying for their workers’ sick leave. Yet when the law took effect, it did so without a commotion. There were no voiced complaints or protests. This silence bodes well for the law’s success and sustainment, and can perhaps pave the way for more progressive labor legislation. And for Mayor de Blasio, who has already faced a setback in failing legislation to raise the minimum wage, granting more residents of the city paid sick leave is a substantial victory.

So what allowed for this measure to be successfully implemented without protest?

Businesses found the law to be reasonable.

Since the law did not take effect immediately, businesses had time to check their budgets to see how offering paid sick leave to employees will impact their profit. While businesses may lose a little money to offer five (or more) sick days a year for employees, the cost of this is not exorbitant. Moreover, business can take comfort in the fact that they do not have to allow an employee paid sick leave until after he or she has been on the job for more than three months. This provision of the law allows time for trust to develop between an employer and an employee, which will lower the risk of an employee’s taking advantage of paid sick leave.

Many people believe that extending paid sick leave to more employees is fair.

One small business owner, Shiv Puri, reflected on the importance of paid sick leave while he worked on Wall Street. He noted that his staff should receive the same benefits as employees as he has been given. Additionally, a poll by FindLaw found that 71% of respondents across the country were in support of extending paid sick leave. In New York and across the United States, the extension of benefits such as paid sick leave are gaining support for being fairer to all employees. Despite the people that had vocalized their concerns before the law took effect, there are many others who support the measure.

Businesses can also benefit from giving workers paid sick leave.

Employees who work low earning jobs know that money is hard to earn and therefore every shift is crucial to supporting themselves. Many have had to make the choice between going to work feeling ill or staying home to care for themselves. Employers don’t want sick workers on the job: they are less productive and can infect co-workers and even customers. Allowing a few days of paid leave will keep sick workers at home, which is ultimately good for business. Additionally, employees who receive more benefits from their employer will feel better treated and will translate how they feel about the job into their work ethic. Providing paid sick leave can also make workers more productive, another benefit to businesses.

It just makes sense.

People that earn low wages already have a harder time making ends’ meat. Why is it then that our system extends more benefits to the people that receive higher salaries? The point of benefits such as paid sick leave is to assist employees, but the people who need the most help are those who work low and minimum wage jobs, because they have a harder time as it is affording basic necessities. Of course, good benefits are a nice incentive for businesses to entice qualified candidates to work for their company. But these benefits can also be used to encourage those in minimum wage positions to stay on the job and to attract more workers to fill open positions.

The law makes New York, the most recent of more than twenty cities and states that have mandated paid sick leave for employees of certain businesses. With the success of the policy’s implementation in New York, perhaps more places in the US will adhere to this just principle.

[NY Times] [HRE Online] [In These Times]

Sarah Helden (@shelden430)

Sarah Helden
Sarah Helden is a graduate of The George Washington University and a student at the London School of Economics. She was formerly an intern at Law Street Media. Contact Sarah at



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