Yesterday, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop signed paid sick days legislation into law that ensures businesses with 10 or more employees will offer up to five paid sick days a year to their employees. Businesses with fewer than 10 employees can offer up to 40 hours of unpaid but job-protected sick time – providing those employees with some peace of mind, knowing that their jobs will still be there, even if they can’t be due to illness or injury.
The new law will benefit over 30,000 employees in New Jersey’s second-largest city – but the benefits will extend to the community as well, both economically and physically. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, “When working people have no choice but to go to work sick, they risk infecting others and delay seeking care. More than three in four food service and hotel workers (78 percent) don’t have a single paid sick day. Workers in child care centers and nursing homes also overwhelmingly lack paid sick days.”
San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Portland, OR, New York City and the state of Connecticut have all passed paid sick day legislation in the past few years. With movement also building in New Jersey for state-wide paid sick day legislation, Mayor Fulop and the Jersey City council took note, pressed forward, and got legislation passed locally first.
There are detractors, of course – but critics of paid sick days laws haven’t found much actual experience to back up their concerns. A study of the effects of the San Francisco paid sick leave ordinance found that the law is rarely abused by workers, most of whom don’t use all their sick leave. And that city’s law is supported by two thirds of employers, 90 percent of whom report that they have felt little impact from it.
As flu season begins, Jersey workers can rest a little easier knowing that they can take care of themselves and their families. Workers and businesses in Tacoma are also working to pass a paid sick days ordinance, and the Washington state legislature is expected to consider statewide paid sick days legislation in 2014.