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March 27, 2013

Small business squabbles over paid sick time laws

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

Those issues are likely to be raised in Congress, where Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, have reintroduced the Healthy Families Act, which would require that workers be allowed to earn up to seven days of paid sick time a year. DeLauro has introduced such a bill in every Congress since 2004. In the last Congress, the bill didn't make it to the House floor.

DeLauro expects opposition from small businesses, but she notes that companies with fewer than 15 employees will be exempt.

"This is not only helpful for workers, but smart for employers," she said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It reduces turnover, increases productivity and prevents the spread of illness."

A study by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics issued last month showed that workers generally take few sick days. Those in industries including financial services, information, transportation and professional services took an average of about four sick days a year. Those in the leisure, hospitality and construction industries took about two days.

Many small company owners say paid sick time is good business.

"We like many bookstores in the country do not pay exceptionally well," says Bradley Graham, owner of Politics & Prose in Washington. "We're very happy to be able to offer additional compensation to the staff in the form of paid sick leave."

Fears that businesses won't be able to grow if they have to pay for sick time are groundless, says Andy Shallal, the Washington restaurant owner.

"With sick leave, we've expanded, we've hired more people," Shallal says. "Business associations tend to go through this apoplectic fit almost to scare people into believing this is going to be a horrible thing for business, when in reality, it's not."

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