March 18, 2011
By Linda Gomez
Park Slope Parents, the popular network of Brooklyn parents, joined A Better Balance, Human Rights Watch, and the New York State Paid Leave Coalition on Monday March 14th to talk about the need for greater support for working parents, including paid sick days and paid family leave insurance. City Council Members Gale Brewer, Brad Lander, Steve Levin and Letitia James joined the group of local families to discuss the struggles of juggling work and parental responsibilities and to discuss the paid sick day legislation being considered in the City Council.
“Parents are in a constant balancing act,” said Susan Fox, organizer of Park Slope Parents, the popular neighborhood listserv and network. “Working parents want to be able to stay home with their children when they’re sick. Our families, our workplaces and our city suffer when New Yorkers have to go to work sick because they can’t afford to take the day off.”
Council Members Brewer, Lander, Levin and James, four of the 35 members sponsoring the paid sick days bill, spoke with family members about the bill, which would ensure all New Yorkers have access to sick days. Under the bill, workers at large businesses would be able to earn nine sick days a year, workers at small businesses would be able to earn up to five sick days a year. “Paid sick days is a policy that is good for workers, good for business and good for the community,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer, the prime sponsor of the paid sick days bill. “New Yorkers shouldn’t have to choose between paying the rent and caring for their families when they’re sick.” “Hundreds of thousands of workers in New York City are unable to take a single paid day off from work when they or their child is sick. This is something most of us take for granted,” said Council Member Lander. “So they have to go to work when they’re sick, even if they work in a restaurant, or send their kids to school when they are ill. It’s bad for workers, and bad for public health.”
New research on paid sick day laws in other cities shows significant benefits for workers and minimal impact on businesses. A study last month of San Francisco’s paid sick days law shows business concerns about job loss were unfounded, with six in seven employers saying that paid sick days have had no negative effect on profitability and two thirds of employers surveyed supporting the law. Other studies have shown that employees are healthier and more productive when they have access to paid sick days.
Parents also discussed a new report from Human Rights Watch, “Failing its Families: Lack of Paid Leave and Work Family Supports in the US,” which finds that millions of US workers including parents of infants are harmed by weak or nonexistent laws on paid leave, breastfeeding accommodation, and discrimination against workers with family responsibilities. The study finds that workers face grave health, financial, and career repercussions as a result. US employers miss productivity gains and turnover savings that these cost effective policies generate in other countries. “We can’t afford not to guarantee paid family leave under law especially in these tough economic times,” said Janet Walsh, deputy women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “The US is actually missing out by failing to ensure that all workers have access to paid family leave. Countries that have these programs show productivity gains, reduced turnover costs, and health care savings.”