The Chicago City Council’s Committee on Workforce Development and Audit unanimously approved the earned sick time ordinance proposal, which would require all employers to offer paid sick leave.
Under the ordinance, employees would accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked, capping at five sick days per 12-month period.
The full City Council still needs to consider the proposal, but if passed, Chicago would join 26 other cities, five states, and one county that already offer paid sick time. The legislation would take effect in Chicago on July 1, 2017.
Some business interest groups have criticized the proposal, calling it overcomplicated and inconsiderate to business owners. They are concerned that the proposed law would not provide enough protection for employers to ensure that workers do not abuse it.
“By this language, anyone could call in anytime, without notice, claim an illness, legitimate or not,” argued Paul Fehribach, chef and co-owner at Big Jones, a restaurant with 25 hourly employees who do not currently get paid sick days.
Realistically, offering paid sick leave would increase labor costs by up to 1.5%, according to the nonprofit organization Civic Consulting Alliance. Small business owners, in particular, have expressed frustration with all of the changes that seem to be happening at once, including minimum-wage hikes and the plastic bag ban.
On the other hand, some business owners have shown support for the proposal, saying that offering employees these benefits would reduce turnover and boost morale. “Our employees need to know that we’ve got their backs,” said Dimo’s Pizza owner Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau.
Right now, approximately 42% of Chicago private-sector workers do not have access to paid sick leave, and low-wage workers and Hispanics are the least likely to be given access. Thus, this legislation is intended to protect Chicago residents like Noemi Hernandez, who works as a bartender.
Hernandez, a single mother to an eight-year-old, has too often had to forgo a day’s wages and risk her job to stay home with a sick child. “It’s two losses at once,” she said. “You lose the wage and you have to pay a doctor’s bill.”
Many workers, in Chicago and across the nation, feel compelled to go to work when sick in order to protect their jobs and secure their paychecks. Unfortunately, this decision puts an entire workplace at risk as illnesses spread between coworkers.
According to a National Health Interview Survey, influenza alone is responsible for 200 million days of decreased productivity and 75 million days of work absence.
Chicago’s proposed ordinance is designed to prevent the spread of illness while allowing workers to secure their wages and rest assured that their jobs are safe.