- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday he intends to pursue legislation that would require private employers with five or more employees to offer 10 days of paid personal time.
- Employees would be able to use the time off for any purpose, including vacation, religious observance, bereavement or family time, according to a statement. De Blasio's office noted that more than 500,000 full- and part-time employees in the city do not currently receive paid time off of any sort, and the proposal would guarantee time off to nearly 3.4 million workers.
- Successful passage of a paid personal time law would make New York City the first U.S. city to mandate paid personal time off, according to the statement. "Every other major nation recognizes the necessity of Paid Personal Time," de Blasio said. "We as a country must get there, and New York City will lead the way."
State and local governments have attempted to adopt employee-friendly initiatives on several issues in the absence of major intervention by the federal government, and paid leave has been one of many such areas.
De Blasio's announcement is a way of recognizing "invisible" people in the city's workforce, Ellen Bravo, co-director of advocacy group Family Values @ Work, told HR Dive in an interview. That includes workers with young children and those who provide caregiving for their relatives, friends and neighbors. Family Values @ Work has been active in promoting the paid personal time proposal, and the group says it has seen a positive reaction from employers to the issue.
"We're seeing that companies who are really large and resourced recognize that this is a key tool to attract talent," Bravo said. "Employers have joined us in calling for public policies for the sake of the communities they operate in, their customers and their employees."
But costs are always a concern in the benefits conversation, and not all those in the city's business community reacted with enthusiasm. Andrew Rigie, executive executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, told The Wall Street Journal the proposal, "has a significant cost for businesses, especially at a time when vacant storefronts plague our city streets and employment growth at city restaurants has gone flat, due in large part to other government mandates." Opposition to paid leave laws has occurred in other U.S. cities, including Austin, where employer groups successfully persuaded a Texas appeals court to block the city's paid sick leave bill.
At the same time, it's not clear exactly how the New York City bill would be funded, but Bravo said this could take the form of public insurance funded by payroll deductions, similar to the state's paid family leave law.
Even if the law becomes a reality, however, Bravo said that employees may not take advantage of time off if they don't feel comfortable doing so. This issue has previously been raised in the HR industry, with a 2018 survey by Alliance Global Assistance revealing more than one-third (38%) of Americans hadn't taken a full week's vacation in more than two years. That's despite other research showing that taking a vacation can boost other employment metrics, including engagement.
Bravo suggested that employers encourage senior leadership to be involved in communicating leave policies and to be mindful of the gap between what leaders think employees need and what employees actually need in terms of time off. Employees may be afraid to take a vacation or raise related needs for fear of retaliation, she said; "People who run the corporation aren't always mindful of what their staff's daily lives are like."
Employers might want to promote successful examples of employees taking leave and returning to work, congratulating and talking with those employees about their experiences, Bravo added.