New York City’s Proposed Paid Sick Days Law: Good Health for 25 Cents per Hour

The New York City Council has introduced legislation that would enable workers in the City who currently lack paid leave to earn up to nine days of paid sick leave per year, while employees of businesses with fewer than ten employees would be entitled to five paid sick days. Employers that already provide leave meeting the requirements of the proposed law, such as leave provided as paid time off (PTO), would not be required to offer additional leave.
Using data from 2008 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other public sources, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) estimates that approximately 850,000 workers who currently receive no paid sick days or paid vacation–30 percent of New York’s workforce–would be eligible to begin accruing leave when the new law is implemented. Providing paid sick days will cost New York employers an average of $8.86 per week for each employee receiving new sick leave. This represents an increase in cost equivalent to 25 cents per hour for an employee working 35 hours a week–less than the increases to the minimum wage in New York in recent years. These estimates account for productivity loss to affected businesses as well as the estimated cost of paying replacement workers.
The per-employee cost of implementing the new law is estimated to be lower for small businesses than for larger businesses. IWPR estimates that costs for larger businesses are expected to equal $9.28 per week–or 27 cents an hour–due to the higher number of required sick days under the new law and wages that are higher than those at small businesses. Due to the lower cap on the number of sick days that employers are required to provide and lower average wages paid by small businesses, it will cost small businesses an average of $6.72 per worker per week–equivalent to 19 cents per hour–to provide sick days as required by the law. Businesses paying less than the average wage paid to workers without sick days–estimated at $16.16 per hour– would pay less than the averages above.
“The cost of providing paid sick days to all New Yorkers may not be as high as some business owners fear. We find that providing paid sick days would cost affected employers about the same amount as a 25 cent wage increase,” said Dr. Kevin Miller, Senior Research Associate at IWPR. “Research also suggests that making paid sick days universal would have far-reaching benefits.”
Providing sick days allows workers to better address their health needs and those of their families. In addition, reducing the spread of influenza in public places, crowded subways, and classrooms would mean that fewer children would lose educational time and fewer parents would miss work. The risk of foodborne disease outbreaks at restaurants would be decreased, and in the event of a public health emergency, people could better follow government recommendations to keep themselves and their children at home.
IWPR calculated the cost of providing paid sick time based on the provisions of the new proposed New York City law. Costs are adjusted by the estimated amount of productivity currently lost by employees who work while ill and by expected productivity gains as a result of decreased contagion in the workplace. The findings and details of the methodology used will be released in a forthcoming IWPR publication that will be made available on the IWPR website. To access this and other publications about paid sick days, please visit

Gender Wage Gap Widens in 2008

A new Fact Sheet released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) based on median annual earnings data for full-time/year-round workers released today by the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics, suggests a widening of the gender wage gap from 22.2 in 2007 to 22. 9 in 2008; (the changes are not statistically significant). In 2008 women earned 77. 1 cents for every dollar earned by a man, compared with 77.8 cents in 2007. Real wages, compared with 2007, fell 2 percent for women, and 1 percent for men.
IWPR Study Director Ariane Hegewisch says, “the lack of progress on closing the gender wage gap is bad news for all American families. The large majority of families rely on women’s earnings, now more so than ever. A fifth of all households with children have to make do solely with the earnings of a woman. We need more effective policies to narrow the wage gap, including better enforcement of wages and equal employment opportunity legislation and targeted training programs, to ensure that both men and women are able to earn a living wage and keep themselves and their children out of poverty, now and in old age.”
View the Fact Sheet here

Reacting to the President’s Speech on Health Care Reform

Listening to the President Wednesday night, I found it interesting, as always whenever a President addresses Congress, which sides of the aisle (Democratic or Republican) applaud and don’t applaud, stand in ovation, or sit without clapping, depending on the issue. I was surprised to see the Republicans not standing when the President said that the idea that his health care reform plan would require government bureaucrats to make decisions about when to kill older Americans is false. That’s something I thought every educated person knows – even the media have been debunking that widespread scare story. I was also surprised that when the President explained his support for a nonprofit or public alternative to private insurance companies whenever competition was lacking and there was not enough choice for consumers, stating that he would always make sure the American people have a choice, the Republicans did not applaud for that. Usually, of course, they are all for free choice and competition, and the President said the public or nonprofit alternative would not be subsidized so it would not be competing unfairly. Of course, one other area where Republicans, at least most of the ones who get elected to Congress, are often anti-choice is abortion. Somehow they are all for free choice except when it comes to letting others freely exercise their legal right to abortion. Besides death panels and illegal immigrants, the President stated that it was also false that his plan would spend public money (ie. tax dollars) on abortion – no public money would be used on abortion. I assume this means that if low or moderate income folks were subsidized to buy a health insurance policy and they happened to purchase a plan that includes abortion, they could only use that plan to access abortion if they had paid enough of their own money to cover the abortion services. Unfortunately I did not get a view of who was applauding for that one, but I suspect at least a few pro-choice members on the Democratic side of the aisle were not. I was disappointed that the President caved on this issue, before the issue has really been joined, whereas he stood up for the public option, or at least its equivalent.
Overall, I thought the President’s speech was studiously bi-partisan. He opened by saying he wanted to work with both parties. He cited Theodore Roosevelt (a Republican) as the first president to call for health care reform, he acknowledged Rep. John Dingell’s father, like his son a Democratic Congressman, for introducing the first comprehensive health care bill in 1943, he acknowledged Senator John McCain, his Republican opponent in the recent presidential campaign, for having a good idea in wanting to create a special high risk insurance pool for those who cannot otherwise get insurance. Regarding the ‘public option,’ he urged the Left to consider alternatives to government provision of this alternative, such as non-profits, and he urged the Republicans to work with him to put their alternatives forward and iron out details that can get agreement rather than not participate in the process. He also offered up a pet issue of the Republicans, tort reform, and said he has asked the Health and Human Services Department to begin to work on a recommendation there. He promised that health care reform will not increase the deficit and his speech sought to assure everyone that they have something to gain – insurance companies would be better regulated helping consumers who already have insurance so they could not be excluded, dropped, or gouged with high out-of-pocket costs, so that they need not fear bankruptcy caused by medical bills, and those without insurance would be able to purchase it because they would have affordable options.
As expected, President Obama acknowledged the Kennedy family members present, and then he read a letter he received from Senator Kennedy after his death (Senator Kennedy was, of course, a proud Democrat). He used the Senator’s words to urge Congress to commit to making change this year. 100 years, the President said, was too long to wait for health care. The most partisan note, to me, was when one Republican member of Congress shouted “you lie” to the President when the President said it was false that immigrants in the United States illegally would receive health care under his plan. At that, Democratic members booed that member, since, after all, the House has long-standing rules of civility (believe it or not) and calling someone a liar violates that rule. I thought the Speaker and the Vice President, who were presiding, were considering calling for order and ejecting the offender, but they did not, and the evening proceeded without another confrontation of that sort. By this morning, the member of Congress who broke the rule of civility had apologized profusely for doing so.
In my opinion, President Obama’s speech offered a clear and forceful explanation of where he stands and of what he wants health care reform to include and a substantive rebuttal of the common distortions that are rampant. He stressed that four committees have passed health care reform bills and that the fifth is expected to do so shortly. He pointed out that the bills agree on 80 to 85 percent of their content and that Democrats and Republicans similarly agree on most of the basic points: that consumers need better protections and insurance companies need to be better regulated, that everyone should have access to affordable health insurance and that low income people should have help in that, and that everyone should do their share (meaning companies should pay for workers’ health insurance if they can afford to and that even young, healthy folks who think they will never get sick should be required to purchase health care insurance). All of this committee action is unprecedented. The degree of agreement on the basics is high. And, thus, it seems we may be much closer to enacting health care reform than many media representatives and talking heads seem to think we are.
Heidi Hartmann, President