The General Assembly is considering a bill that would require companies to allow their employees to earn paid time off. I'm a business owner, and I'm all for such a law.
Businesses are like children — we need firm parental guidance, rules. We'll push the envelope as far as we can, but honestly, we like to know where we stand. Without this, we look around at our colleagues and, where one naughty business goes, the rest of us are likely to follow — it's what kids do.
When there are no rules, it's a race to the bottom. If your competition doesn't offer health care or paid sick leave, how can you? If there were no minimum wage or child labor laws, you would see poor children working for pennies. That's what governments prevent. They look out for the greater good of the community. And they lay down the law. This levels the playing field and forces all of us to do the right thing.
But governments, like parents, sometimes forget this crucial role and let the kids call the shots. Ever been around a kid who hasn't had enough sleep, has eaten too much junk and has been allowed to run around the dining room table with a wooden spoon pounding on guests like bongos? It's fun for the kids maybe, but even they suffer in the end. You have to establish the rules, for everyone's sake.
So don't listen to the whining. Of course we're going to cry when you tell us we have to give everyone the ability to earn paid time off: "But I don't want to go to bed. All my friends get to watch that program. Why are you so mean?"
Be firm. Remember the big picture and do what's right for all of us.
I am the CEO of Walker Systems Support. Founded in 1982, we offer network management and computer technical support to organizations throughout Connecticut.
With approximately 50 employees, I'm extremely proud of the company we've built, and much of that success is due to talented and dedicated employees who care deeply about the clients they serve, our reputation and our company. I can't imagine denying anyone the ability to earn paid time off to go on vacation, get sick or take care of family.
I suppose by offering this benefit to our employees, we are putting ourselves at a competitive disadvantage in the short term, but in the long run we all benefit. People who are financially, emotionally or physically strained don't create a healthy community or a healthy business — particularly if they risk spreading illness around the workplace.
The proposed paid sick days legislation sets a reasonable floor of five paid sick days for full-time employees. The bill, crafted in consultation with business and management professionals, exempts the smallest businesses from the requirement.
It is also written to safeguard employers' ability to discipline employees who abuse the policy and to protect employers' flexibility, including allowing paid time off, flex time or other types of paid employee leave to meet the requirements of the legislation.
I urge the legislature to think like good parents and pass this bill, and for the governor to sign the proposed paid sick days legislation. We won't thank you for it right away, but someday we'll tell you how grateful we are that you made us do right.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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