The New York City Council passed legislation Wednesday that will require thousands of businesses to provide paid sick days to workers.
Companies with 20 or more employees will be required to offer five paid sick days beginning Apr. 1, 2014. On Oct. 1, 2015, it will expand to include companies with 15 or more workers.
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An estimated one million workers will benefit from the legislation. Another 300,000 workers will receive unpaid sick leave under the new legislation.
“This vote marks a big step in the right direction toward providing paid sick time to workers in our city," said Vincent Alvarez, president of the city AFL-CIO.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said the vote means "working families do not have to choose between their jobs or their health."
He added, "More than 1 million workers will no longer be afraid of being fired for taking a sick day."
Supporters say the bill will allow workers to take time off when they are sick without fear of losing pay or their job. Critics of the measure say that many business owners cannot afford to offer paid sick days, and that businesses and employees should be left to work out sick-leave arrangements on their own.
“We have a good, strong and sensible piece of legislation that recognizes the needs of everyday New Yorkers and the realities that our struggling small businesses face,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said when she first outlined the bill on March 29.
Advocates have been pushing for a bill that would apply to businesses with five or more employees. Despite some of the limits of the bill, the legislation is viewed as a pivotal step in a national push for paid sick days.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said earlier this year that the bill would "stifle job creation," is expected to veto the measure, but the Council, which passed it 45-3, will likely have enough votes to override the veto.