While Newark, NJ’s City Council members were expected to vote on a paid sick days proposal on Wednesday evening, they instead set a vote for January 8 after some last-minute enforcement provisions were added.
The bill would allow workers to earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 they worked, requiring employers to provide up to five paid sick days a year for their employees, who could use the time for their own illnesses or that of their family members. Proponents of the law say that 38,000 workers in the city don’t have access to paid time off for sickness, and in New Jersey as a whole 1.2 million workers similarly can’t take paid days.
If it passes in January, Newark’s law could go into effect in May and would be the eighth in the country, joining Jersey City, NJ; New York City; Seattle, WA; San Francisco, CA; Washington, DC; Portland, OR; and the state of Connecticut. Workers in the small town of SeaTac, WA also just won the right to paid sick time and Washington, D.C. lawmakers expanded the city’s policy to cover tipped workers. The rest of New Jersey could soon follow, as state lawmakers introduced a bill in August to guarantee all workers in the state have access to paid leave. Massachusetts, Oregon, and Vermont are also working on paid sick days proposals, as is the city of Tacoma, WA.
Overall, 40 percent of American private sector workers aren’t able to take a paid day off if they or their loved ones fall sick. The United States is the only country out of the 15 most competitive that doesn’t guarantee that all workers get paid sick days.
Yet evidence from those places that do have guaranteed paid sick leave shows that it is good for businesses, job growth, and the economy. Without paid sick days, the typical employer will lose $225 a year per employee in lost productivity.
In spite of this evidence, big business interests such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, chambers of commerce, and restaurant industry groups have pushed preemption bills at the state level that block cities and counties from passing their own paid sick leave legislation. They’ve met with considerable success, enacting ten such laws thus far, seven in 2013 alone.