Paid disease law reduces ER use, but biz executives say a complicated mandate


Business leaders recognize the importance of protecting the right of employees to paid sick leave, especially during the pandemic, but criticize what they call a vague language and the various prohibitions that make it difficult to comply with legislation.

The State’s version of the paid sick leave law came into force on January 1st. Some employers say the way it has been implemented has put an undue burden on them.

“Employers who provide paid sick leave is a good thing. That’s why 80% of companies had provided it in some form even before the legislation, ”said Frank Kerbein, director of the Center for Human Resources at the New York State Business Council. “But the way New York State has done it is bad.”

State legislation does not require workers to provide a minimum notice to use paid sick leave, and employers are prohibited from requesting documentation, Kerbein said. This not only opens the system to abuse, but makes it even more difficult for business owners to find workers to fill the gap, especially during a labor shortage, he added.

“We don’t want people to go to work sick.” But especially in the catering industry, if someone leaves immediately before a change, it presents operational challenges, ”said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York Hospitality Alliance.“ The diversity of office work, the work of a restaurant will not be on a desk until the next day. “

In addition, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order in March 2020 that provided an additional pause time for quarantine purposes, which exacerbated the challenges for the top of the legal line, Kerbein said. Business owners said the warrant felt like an additional expense, he added.

Small businesses feel the weight of such mandates more than larger ones, Rigie said.

“Some don’t just have the cash flow, especially during the pandemic, to pay for sick leave, especially if the requests come all at once,” he said.

Kerbein said the penalties for violating the law – both financial and criminal – are harsh since non-compliance is similar to salary theft.


The State Department of Labor declined a request for comment.

Companies acknowledge that it is in their best interest to provide sick leave, but the industry had hoped for flexibility or input on how it could enact such policies, Kerbein said.

“Covid has disturbed us beyond anything we can imagine, and we just want to rebuild the economy,” Rigie adds. “Employers want to contribute without having to worry about messing up an intricate law.”

A look around the city

A recent study from New York University found that the city’s implementation of its paid sick leave law, passed in 2014, reduced emergency room and specialist visits and increased the likelihood that a person has received preventive services.

The NYU study analyzed usage patterns for emergency care, specialty visits and primary care as well as preventive care services for more than 550,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in the city and state from 2011 to 2017. It found that before the city’s implementation of its law, such models were similar in the city and in the state. However, in the first year of the city’s law coming into force, it achieved a 0.6% reduction in emergency department visits. There was also a 0.3% reduction in visits to the emergency department for conditions that could have been addressed in a primary care setting.

The numbers may seem small, but it’s important to note that the state has been trying for more than a decade to reduce the use of the emergency room among Medicaid beneficiaries but has never succeeded, said Sherry Glied, dean. and professor of public service at Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. These small percentages translate into more than 8,000 fewer emergency visits a year, which is significant, he added.

Although the study did not capture usage statistics for health care services during the pandemic, it was reasonable to expect that city law helped alleviate emergency room visits during the crisis, he said. Glied.

“Having her pay protected so she could take her free time was the key to preventing anyone from waiting too long to see a doctor before [their] the disease has worsened, “he said. Being able to take time off during the day meant employees – especially those on lower incomes – could see a doctor during working hours rather than going to work. emergency room for an after-hours visit, he added.

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