DN Editorial: Mandated sick pay: job killer

Posted: May 24, 2011

IT'S COMPLETELY unfair that some workers don't get paid sick days.

We can commiserate with parents who are faced with the choice of staying home to care for a sick child and losing a day's pay, or sending the child to school; likewise, for someone who is ill and has to drag himself to work because he can't afford to have one unpaid day.

That said, City Council has no business mandating that employers offer paid sick days to their employees. A bill sponsored by Blondell Reynolds-Brown, Darrell Clarke and William Greenlee would require employers with 11 or fewer employees to offer five paid sick days per year; businesses with 11 or more employees would have to provide nine sick days a year.

With an already onerous business tax structure, Philadelphia already struggles mightily to compete with other cities and the region to attract business. This bill would be the equivalent of infecting this competition with a deadly virus.

And according to a recently released study on the bill commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce, this costly bill would actually kill job creation. The study, written by Temple economics professor William Dunkelberg, explains that businesses are likely to reduce their workforce to lessen the fiscal impact, or to not hire additional employees - especially the 11th employee. The study estimates that the bill would reduce employment by 4,000 jobs, and cost Philadelphia businesses from $350 million to $752 million to implement it.

The bill also would allow sick days to carry over from one year to the next, and would require no documentation of illness. Besides the new burdens this would place on businesses, monitoring and enforcing the law would require the city to create a new bureaucracy.

Again, we're all for the rights of workers, especially low-income workers who are less likely to have paid sick days now. But this is a major policy shift best kept in the larger discussion about federal health-care reform - which would no doubt include provisions for sick leave.

If Council is so concerned about workers' sick leave, have the nearly 200 Council staffers and members pool some of their sick days and make them available to workers who need them. A better idea: The number of business mandates like this that Council should be able to impose should be limited to the number of years members have spent in the private sector. That will cut the number of bills down to a handful. *

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