By Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray
Every parent knows the dread of waking up to find your child sick with the flu. Or receiving that teacher's call that your child has a terrible cough and must be picked up. Right away.
We all have the same impulse in those situations -- to be there for our kids. And for those of us with paid sick days at work, we manage to do it, even if it means a lot of stress. But for many New Yorkers -- and there are more than a million of them working without any paid sick time -- those stressful moments can lead to genuine crisis. Taking a day off to take care of a sick child means losing a day's pay -- and potentially a job.
That's bad for New York City.
We need parents to take care of their kids when they're ill. It's in the best interests not only of children and parents, but also of schools, hospitals, businesses and health care budgets. But instead of promoting good parenting as good policy, we have a status quo that does just the opposite.
There's a broad movement gaining ground across the country -- and right here in New York City -- to ensure parents have paid sick leave when they need it. For themselves, certainly, but also for their kids. But Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn are standing in the way of the Paid Sick Leave bill and refusing to bring it to the floor for a City Council vote, where it would easily pass.
Passing basic standards that require employers to provide a reasonable number of paid sick days to workers is a smart response to the times we are living in. Household incomes and job security have been devastated by the recession. Parents trying to balance work and family are swimming against the tide.
And because this is New York, where it costs more to raise a family and the pressures of work can be especially high, it's already harder for parents here than almost anywhere else. In nearly half of families in our city, single parents -- Bill's mom was one for a good chunk of his childhood -- are managing it all on their own.
Parents need help. And while government can't help parents with everything, passing Paid Sick Leave is the kind of local action that will directly benefit parents here and now.
More than a million New Yorkers do not receive sick days at work, according to research by the Community Service Society. And the percentage of workers without paid sick leave is highest for the lowest paid workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, two-thirds of workers in the lowest-earning groups have no sick leave at all. These are precisely the workers most at risk of losing a job if they miss a day or a shift.
That's no way to respect work or support families. And it's ultimately unproductive for our economy, leading to reduced worker productivity, higher turnover and increased medical costs with illnesses spread and go untreated. The experiences in other cities and states have shown a modest Paid Sick Leave law reduces the costs associated with all these problems and ultimately pays for itself.
In San Francisco, where they've had the law since 2007, two-thirds of businesses back the measure according to surveys conducted by the Institute for Women's Policy Research. Helping small businesses retain and create jobs needs to be a priority with any bill passed, but experience shows there is room to help both working parents and our economy. The Paid Sick Leave bill does not inhibit business growth in our city -- it creates a field of workers healthy and capable enough to build a stronger New York City.
We can start a virtuous cycle here. We can help parents raise healthier kids and work productively, which in turn helps neighborhood businesses do better and communities thrive. Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn need to give working parents the flexibility to be there for their kids when it matters most. Bring the bill to the Council floor.
Bill de Blasio is New York City's public advocate. He and his wife, Chirlane McCray, live in Brooklyn with their two children.
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