Nearly a million workers in New York City do not receive paid time-off from their employers, and they take a financial hit if they cannot work due to a family illness or a need to address personal affairs.
Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to change that, and on Sunday, he pitched his legislation for paid time-off at the Bethesda Healing Center, a Pentecostal church in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The church is comprised of many low-income residents and blue collar families — many of whom would benefit from his proposal.
The legislation, pending before the City Council, would require private employers to provide employees with mandated paid time off. If passed, the law would be the first of its kind in the nation, requiring employers to provide paid time to use for vacation and other purposes, as opposed to sick leave.
If the bill becomes law, all private employers with five or more employees would need to abide by it; contract employees and freelancers would not be eligible for the program.
Under the proposal, paid time off would accrue at a rate of one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 10 paid workdays off per year. Employees would become eligible to take paid time off after 120 days of employment. Part-time employees would be eligible for limited paid time off, based on the number of hours they work.
The bill would allow employers to require employees to provide up to two weeks’ notice prior to taking paid time off. Employers would also would be permitted to deny leave under specific circumstances, including if too many employees requested the same days off.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson has expressed concern in recent weeks over the impact on small businesses already hurting from rent increases and other workforce requirements like paid sick leave and a recent bump in the state’s minimum wage. The legislation could be the most far-reaching to be passed by the Council in recent years.
De Blasio told the congregation that the law would allow workers to “spend time with their family without losing a days pay,” and help prevent worker “burnout.”
“Do you ever feel you don’t have time with your spouse, your children, or even have time to spend time with yourself?” de Blasio asked the congregation. “Do you feel like you are missing out on things because you can’t afford to take a day off? People are working harder and harder, their humanity is being stripped away because they can’t take a day off.”
The mayor took a swipe at critics of the paid time off proposal, recalling that naysayers predicted financial misfortune when the city raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour. The higher wage, he observed, “didn’t cause economic destruction.”
“There were doubting Thomas’ who said it would destroy the economy, and yet, it didn’t because people now had more money to spend in the community,” de Blasio said. “We now have paid sick days in New York City, and workers are now healthier. Paid personal time allows people to live better lives and there are no people that work harder for it than New Yorkers.”
He asked parishioners to sign on to post cards that were distributed and will be sent to the City Council, urging them to support the bill.
Pastor James Osei-Kofi of the Clergy Council said it is an important bill that should get support.
“This is the kind of thing that will boost people’s morale and to make them healthier,” Osei-K0fi said. “People will be able to make choices of taking a day off to help their family, and not worry about losing income that they can’t afford to lose. People deserve that.”