OPINION: Paid Personal Time should be a right and not a privilege

New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives J. Phillip Thompson.  Eagle  file photo by Jonathan Sperling.

New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives J. Phillip Thompson. Eagle file photo by Jonathan Sperling.

J. Phillip Thompson

Special to the Eagle 

Where I grew up, there was a virtual dividing line between kids whose parents were never home and those who had a parent, aunt or some adult who made them come inside at night, do their homework, and eat their dinner. 

The first group of kids — many of whom were my own relatives — almost always got into trouble or had problems in school. I have seen this play out over decades of time. Many of these kids never recovered. What I know now is that their parents were worried to death about them but had jobs that didn’t allow them paid time off.

It’s time we demand more for the nearly one million New Yorkers working longer and harder without a single paid day off to rest or tend to important life events.  Most are low-income people who can’t afford any loss in salary, even if means missing their child’s graduation or being unable to say goodbye to a loved one in hospice care.

These are impossible decisions that no one should have to make. Paid vacation should be a right, not a privilege. To make this a reality, we must pass Mayor de Blasio’s landmark bill mandating paid time off for all workers, and we must pass it now.

Paid Personal Time legislation builds upon the same framework as paid sick leave, where employees at businesses with five or more employees, or one or more domestic workers, will earn one hour of paid personal time for every 30 hours worked. 

The proposed legislation also provides room for employers to enforce their own policies without unnecessary disruptions while still following the mandate. Employers could require up to 2 weeks’ notice and have reasonable exceptions for granting leave to prevent too many workers from taking simultaneous leave.

While the City does mandate five sick days for employees, it is not sufficient to cover both sick and personal time. After three consecutive days of using sick time, a medical note might be required from an employer. Three days is not enough time for bereavement to mourn a loved one. Personal Paid Time will not require a note or an excuse. Employees should be able to take time for personal reasons without fearing the consequence of losing a pay check or worse, their job.

This legislation is a win-win for both employers and employees too. When workers are well-rested and happy, they are more productive, get sick less often and are more likely to remain in their jobs. Paid time off also strengthens families, creating strong, secure and safe communities where everyone would want to live or visit. 

While every other industrialized country in the world understands the importance of this fundamental right, nowhere in our country is this right guaranteed. By becoming the first city in the nation to mandate Paid Personal Time for all workers, New York City is once again leading the way when it comes to improving the lives of working people in this country.

The De Blasio Administration has already successfully implemented sick leave, brought predicable schedules to fast food and retail workers, and enacted an innovative new law that has helped freelance workers get paid the money they are owed. 

Together, we can provide New Yorkers the time they need to have the quality of life they deserve. Let’s help the working people of our city not just survive but build a better future for their families and themselves – Pass Personal Paid Time legislation now!

J. Phillip Thompson is deputy mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives.