By Mike Savino
A study published last week blames Connecticut’s paid sick leave mandate for a drop in work hours and pay for younger employees since the law took effect in 2012.
The report, commissioned by the conservative Employment Policies Institute, said the law has resulted in the loss of 24 hours and $850 in salary annually for employees between the ages of 20 and 34 when compared to the rest of New England.
“This study counters the fiction that paid sick leave mandates are cost-free policies,” said Michael Saltsman, research director at EPI. “Due to their role in reducing job opportunities, and their apparently minimal workplace benefits, mandatory paid sick leave policies may be a cure worse than the disease.”
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association said the study should give pause to lawmakers who have been talking about expanding mandated benefits, including paid family and medical leave and raises in minimum wage.
“We are always so quick to be the first to adopt this mandates,” said Eric Gjede, CBIA assistant council, but legislation like the paid sick leave requirement “just reminds businesses” of higher costs and stricter regulations in Connecticut.
The study drew criticism from Lindsay Farrell, director of the state Working Families Party, though, noting employment in Connecticut’s service sector is up since the law’s passage. The law requires that employers of 50 or more workers give paid sick leave to “non-exempt service workers,” accruing at a rate of one hour of leave per 40 hours worked.
The EPI study, conducted by University of Kentucky professor Thomas Ahn, also did find that roughly one-fifth of 86 businesses surveyed reduced staffing levels, another one-fifth raised prices, and one-third reduced employee benefits.
The study largely bases its criticism, though, on its finding that employees in Connecticut have lost work time and pay since the law’s implementation. The study, which relied on census data, also said the study largely affects younger employees, hypothesizing that this is because older, more skilled workers tend to have jobs where paid leave is already offered.
Ahn also writes that “there is a lot of noise in the estimate, and it is difficult to say with much confidence that employers are cutting hours,” making it difficult to make a broader analysis of the law, however.
Farrell and Christine Palm, spokeswoman for the Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors, both noted the remark, and instead point to a 2014 study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a left-leaning think tank, that found little to no impact from the law.
Palm also referenced a 2015 study from the professional services firm EY that found that 74 percent of workers surveyed in eight countries identified work schedule flexibility as being among the top things they look for in a job.
The study also found that 38 percent of U.S. millennials, those Ahn said are hurt by paid sick leave, would move to another country for better parental leave benefits.
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