Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Small Business Owners Speak Out for Earned Sick Time

PHILADELPHIA - Small business owners, members of the Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces and a member of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, shared their support for the proposed earned sick day bill (Bill No. 080474) at a roundtable discussion today. Support is shared by over 20 businesses and 30 Coalition members located throughout Philadelphia. The bill, which would allow workers the opportunity to earn up to nine days of sick time per year, was voted out of the Public Health and Human Services Committee last Tuesday. The bill could affect up to 200,000 workers in Philadelphia who do not have access to paid sick days.

"I want to make sure I have happy, healthy employees," said Lisa Gregg-Alexander, owner of the Whispering Leaves Herb and Sip Shop in University City. Greg-Alexander, a former police officer, recently received a $5000 investment from the Enterprise Center Business Plan Competition for her business plan, which included earned sick time and paid vacation days for her employees. "If you're in a miserable situation, you create misery if you're feeling sick, or feeling down, you pass that on. That's not good for business."

The small business owners who hosted the roundtable included retail stores, restaurants and childcare providers from different areas of Philadelphia. Some of the businesses already provide paid sick days to their employees and others are exploring the possibility.

Square Peg Artery and Salvage owner Jennifer Harrison and member of the Chamber of Commerce held the roundtable at her shop in Center City. Harrison provides earned sick time for her employees and provides additional support for the 260 local artists who sell wares through her shop.

Harrison recounted a story of being a young worker without paid sick days. "I was only 24, and I temporarily lost my vision when I had shingles," she said. "On top of the stress of being sick, I was worried about my job. My boss told me to take two weeks off, but to give him a call in two weeks to find out whether or not he still had a job for me."

New research on paid sick day laws in other cities shows significant benefits for workers and minimal impact on businesses. A study last month of San Francisco's paid sick days law shows business concerns about job loss were unfounded, with six in seven employers saying that paid sick days have had no negative effect on profitability and two-thirds of employers surveyed supporting the law. Other studies have shown that employees are healthier and more productive when they have access to paid sick days.

"Taking care of children is the priority for me and my staff, and we simply can't do our best when we're sick," said Dewetta Logan, owner of the Smart Beginnings Early Learning Center, a childcare center in West Philadelphia. Logan's staff of seven earns five sick days a year. "Providing sick days to my staff is about respect, and it's about smart business."

The Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces is a group of organizations supporting the need for earned sick time in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.

More information can be found at earnedsicktime.blogspot.com.

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