Paid sick leave bills spread like the flu

Businesses in New York City drew pitchforks when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he would make good on a campaign promise to expand the city’s paid sick leave law as soon as April 1. Employers managed to squeeze a six-month grace period from the city, so now starting in October, businesses with five or more employees will have to provide workers five sick days or pay a fine.

New York is one of several big cities, including Portland, Ore. and Washington, D.C., plus a rash of smaller ones, to impose or expand sick leave policies in recent months.

Groups such as the National Partnership for Women and Families are pushing for a federal policy, asserting it will give workers economic stability and even curb health care costs.

Most restaurants offer some form of paid leave, says Scott DeFife, executive vice president of policy and government affairs for the National Restaurant Association, but it’s a significant cost. Added to minimum-wage pressure and health care mandates, labor costs could increase from one-third of the restaurant dollar to half, DeFife says. 

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