This week, the Center for Economic and Policy Research released a new report, which has received major press attention, on the impact of the New York City Earned Sick Time Act. Researchers Eileen Appelbaum and Ruth Milkman surveyed employers around the city about the impact of the law, whichwent into effect in April 2014. Contrary to opponents’ dire predictions, the survey found across the board that paid sick days have had no major negative consequences on businesses.
An overwhelming 98% of employers reported no known cases of abuse of sick time. As one restaurant owner put it, the misuse he anticipated “didn’t happen. No one has taken a paid sick day because they just didn’t feel like coming in that day. There is no abuse.” Instead, the survey found that employees are cautious in their use of sick time. Though the law allows employees to earn and use up to 40 hours of sick time (or approximately 5 business days) per year, in the year before the survey half of all employees used three days or fewer and a quarter of employees used no sick time at all. One employer stated “People ration it. People want to save it up in case something serious happens.”
Almost 85% of employers saw no increase in costs from complying with the law, with most of the remaining employers reporting increases of less than 3% and a few showing decreased costs. Most employers were able to cover absences with cost-free measures, such as temporarily reassigning duties to other employees or putting some work on hold.
Most strikingly, the report found that pre-implementation fears the law would be a “job-killer” were unfounded. 91% of employers said they had not reduced hiring and 97% had not reduced hours. Not only did wages not decrease, the survey actually found increased average wages for both hourly and salaried employees since the law went into effect.
With results like this, it’s no surprise that 86% of employers surveyed now described themselves as supportive of the law, with over half saying they were “very supportive.” At A Better Balance, we’re fighting to enact paid sick days laws like the NYC law around the country and are excited by theconstantly growing number of jurisdictions with these laws on the books. As the new study and the existing body of research show, paid sick days are good for workers, good for businesses, and good for the health of our communities.