Sick Leave Expansion Too Fast, Say Business Groups

By Nicholas Zifcak, Epoch Times
February 15, 2014 Updated: February 15, 2014

Small business associations and trade groups urged the New York City Council to delay expansion of paid sick leave at a hearing Friday. Representatives of the business groups said expansion of the law to include businesses with five or more employees needs more time to implement. They spoke at a City Council hearing on the law Feb. 14.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and much of City Council want to amend paid sick leave legislation passed last year to include businesses as small as those with five or more employees. They want the law to go into effect April 1, originally when businesses with 20 or more employees had to comply.

Robert Bookman, representing the NYC Hospitality Alliance, pointed out that the prior administration was opposed to the law so the Department of Consumer Affairs has had little time to prepare to implement the law and educate businesses. Particularly for expansion to businesses with between five and fifteen employees. The business groups estimate there are 175,000 businesses in the group in New York City, compared to the 44,000 with 20 or more employees.

According to Victor Wong with the Partnership for NYC, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) put the job postings for those to work on the expansion of paid sick leave online Jan. 31, so the staff haven’t even been hired yet.

On Wednesday the mayor announced he was adding $4.8 million to the budget of Consumer Affairs to hire more workers and help enforce the paid sick law.

Trade groups also expressed their frustration at reversal of the agreement hammered out with the last City Council.

“We worked long and hard on a compromise with this institution, we think that should matter,” said Bookman speaking for the bars and restaurants group. Paid sick leave legislation was finally passed in 2013 after three years of delay. Business got certain concessions, including limiting the requirement to businesses larger than 15 employees, many of which already provide some form of paid leave.

The Hospitality Alliance along with Five Borough Chambers of Commerce, the Partnership for NYC, the Bodega Association, and the
National Supermarket Association cautioned against the financial and reporting burden the new law would have on small businesses. They urged City Council to wait and see the results of the existing law, which requires businesses with 20 or more employees to provide sick leave by April 1, 2014. According to the law passed last year, employers with 15 or more workers must comply by Oct. 1, 2015.

Bookman urged the council to study the effects of the law on businesses before expanding the law.
Several studies have been done in other cities, including in San Francisco, the first place to pass such a law back in 2007.

A 2011 report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) analyzed the effects of the law in San Francisco, finding that one-third of the workers did not use the paid sick days, contradicting speculation about rising wage costs. But their close survey of 727 San Francisco employers found 14.2 percent of them responded that the law had a negative impact on their profitability.

The bill’s original sponsor, former council member and now Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, also testified at the hearing Feb 14. Brewer said she and the committee formulating the legislation communicated extensively with San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement. She said they wanted to understand best practices for the law to ensure small businesses were not hurt.

“The most important aspect of success is implementation and education,” said Brewer.