Opinion by State Rep. Tony Hwang – 134th District
In each of the past three years certain legislators have advanced bills which would require employers to provide paid time off to employees. While it has failed each of these times, the legislative majority continue to keep it as a central feature of their labor agenda.
At a time when Connecticut must do all it can to keep jobs and businesses in the state, this measure would mandate that all employers with 50 or more employees must provide up to 40 hours (five work days) of paid time off, or one hour for every forty hours worked. No other state mandates businesses to pay for sick leave. There is a good reason for that – it is bad policy and creates a chilling effect on business growth right when we are trying to warm the state’s economy.
The notion of paid sick time off is a good one that most employers that employ over 50 people already provide to employees as a benefit. That decision to offer this as a benefit to employees should remain at the discretion of employers. Some businesses, industries and workforces by their nature cannot function with paid sick time off and would be forced to reduce the staffing or possibly move out of our state to sustain their business.
This measure makes it more expensive for employers to hire employees at a time when Connecticut has been holding steadily at 9% unemployment. When an employer must figure in the costs of paying an employee for a week of work not done then wages, benefits or jobs themselves must be cut. This is something we cannot afford. Connecticut has already had 13,000 businesses close while losing 100,000 jobs during this recession. There couldn’t be a worse time to increase labor costs. It is about jobs and business growth, especially when the US has only grown an anemic 54,000 jobs in the last quarter. This bill will dramatically hamper Connecticut’s ability to maintain our fragile and weak reboot from a historical economic recession.
This measure also limits an employer’s options when they go in to negotiate with employees for benefits. By placing this mandate on a business, the business cannot adapt with the economic realities of hard times and achieve fair and mutual terms with an employee.
Unfortunately the legislature’s Labor Committee narrowly voted 6-5 to approve this measure. The General Assembly just approved this paid sick leave mandate 76-65 and now moves to Gov. Malloy’s desk for signature to become law.
Connecticut’s General Assembly has a responsibility to create a climate that is more responsive to business, and as a result create economic opportunity and jobs. By enacting these kinds of measures the legislature prevents our businesses from being competitive against neighboring states that do not have the same mandated burden or cost of doing business. Continuing down this road will guarantee that Connecticut will spend a longer time in recession than anywhere else in the nation. Paid sick leave is bad medicine for Connecticut businesses.
State Rep. Tony Hwang is in his second term representing the 134th District in the State House of Representatives which includes parts of Trumbull and Fairfield. He is currently the Ranking member of the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee and a member of the Appropriations and Environment Committees. He is also a founding member of the bi-partisan Bioscience Caucus.