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Sick Leave Is Healthy Policy

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A City Council speaker who has never been a small business owner -- or a parent -- does not have the experience or the empathy to understand why the time has come for a Paid Sick Leave Bill in New York.

Speaker Christine Quinn says that because of our fragile economy it is the wrong time to bring a Sick Leave Bill to a vote; she cannot, however, explain what benchmark in the economy will signal that it is the right time to pass this new worker civil rights issue.

As a small business owner, I'm empathetic to other entrprepreneurs -- particularly restaurant owners who say their margins are too slim to extend paid sick leave. That's why I believe we should couple paid sick leave with a tax credit to small business owners who implement health and wellness programs to keep their employees healthy. As a parent, I know that it is good for business, good for workers and good for our children when an employer allows its employees to have a small allotment of days each year to heal themselves or attend to their children's inevitable illnesses.

If you own a small business in New York and offer smoke cessation programs, nutrition education classes or incentives for losing weight and exercising, you should be given tax credits that will offset any increase in costs for sick leave. This would, in turn, likely bring down City costs for Medicare and Medicaid, put less pressure on our overburdened hospital system and make workers more productive.

This is an historic opportunity for us to help small business owners and their employees with wellness programs to keep them healthy, while protecting their livelihood and their children when the inevitable flu season, seasonal colds or other maladies beset them.

All parents have experienced days when their child is sick and need to skip school and go to the doctor. Why should we make those parents choose between their job and their child's health? Paid sick days will allow parents to make the right decision and not fear losing their pay -- or their job.

Speaker Quinn cannot keep this bill from a vote for much longer. Her political ambition has blinded her from a wise public policy that is actually good for business and good for New York City's labor force.

Add the tax incentives for wellness programs and this becomes a no-brainer for business, for our workers and their children and for our City's public good.

Speaker Quinn, stop worrying about your electability in November and do the right thing on Paid Sick Leave.

Tom Allon, a small business CEO, is the owner of City & State NY, a political media company in New York State.

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