1.2 million workers in New York City have paid sick leave for the first time

Women for Paid Sick Days sign and protestors

(Image source: The New York Observer)

This month New York City’s new paid sick leave law went into effect — and employers and employees alike are feeling pretty good about it.

The law went into effect on April 1. And despite the naysayers and the critics, the skies didn’t fall. Instead, without hoopla or hullabaloo, the city quietly became the largest in the nation to ensure that a vast majority of workers wouldn’t lose their jobs or a portion of their paychecks if they or their close relatives got sick.

… As a result of the new law, about 1.2 million workers will have paid sick leave for the first time, according to Nancy Rankin, vice president for policy research at the Community Service Society of New York, a group that works on behalf of low-income New Yorkers. That’s about 240,000 more people than would have received the benefit if the mayor hadn’t expanded the scope of the policy.

Under the new law, companies with five or more employees will have to provide up to five paid days off to workers if they, or their close relatives, fall ill. (Employees accrue leave based on their hours worked.) A weaker version of the law, which passed last year, would have affected businesses with 15 or more workers and did not include the manufacturing sector.

As we’ve covered before, lack of paid sick leave disproportionately affects women. Women are more likely to be low-wage workers — who are generally less likely to have sick days — and also to work in female-dominated industries, like care work and food service, that are some of the worst offenders. And, as Lori wrote a couple years ago, “for better or worse, women remain the primary caregivers in most households. When members of their family get sick, they are more often called upon.” That’s why the campaign to get this law passed in NYC included major feminist support from the likes of Gloria Steinem, Ai-jen Poo, and female elected officials.

Unfortunately, NYC is still the exception. Right now, although the benefits of paid sick leave are far-reaching, only seven cities and one state have such laws — leaving 41 million people in the US unable to stay home when they or their families are sick. But the movement to secure these protections in other states is gaining steam. And hopefully NYC’s experience will serve as further ammunition.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

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