The phrase “double-edged sword” is a term used to convey something that can have favorable and unfavorable consequences. Paid sick leave, being debated in Portland Maine, is one of those issues that could potentially hurt and also benefit a business at the same time. As a small business owner, the idea of another expense can be overwhelming. But if you look at the paid sick leave concept as a way to attract and keep good workers, it could be a positive tool in your administrative tool belt. Portland Maine will have a public hearing before the City Council’s Health & Human Services and Public Safety Committee today to discuss paid sick leave. The tourism season is just about to begin and business owners already have a lot of details to work out. Last week I wrote a post about being prepared for the 2018 tourism season with a revenue management strategy. Expenses are a big part of a revenue plan. The cost of labor should also include the cost of employee benefits. If you allocate your revenue properly, you can create attractive jobs that will keep employees happy and productive. Portland’s proposal, as it is written now, would affect all businesses, big and small. Therefore, it is important for small lodgings and hospitality businesses to be involved in the discussion. I encourage small business owners to go to the public hearings and contribute to the discussions. One of the steps in revenue management is future outlook. If you can in some way affect future legislation that could contribute to your bottom line, you should advocate for your business. You might not be able to take the ordinance off the table, but you may be able to change a few words in the proposed ordinance. Both sides of this equation are important and as an employee, you bring valuable knowledge to the room.
Suggestions on ways to look at Paid Sick Leave for your small business.
- Get involved in the discussions NOW! Realize that there is a big push to get this proposal through. Try to mediate the impact. It is unlikely the committee will take this proposal off the table because it affects your bottom line. Use arguments that reflect the business community as a whole. Portland is just starting to flourish and needs time to stabilize its base. Businesses are finally coming to Maine and we need to encourage that. Young people need stable businesses.
- Think of where your middle ground is and negotiate for it. Advocate for a minimum in sick paid days allocated and the number of employees at the business. The State of Maine proposal that was defeated in 2017, would only have affected companies with over 50 employees. It is realistic to think the committee might restrict the ordinance to larger companies. Also, there might be a way to negotiate that Paid Sick leave not apply to J-1 or other Visa employees.
- If the proposal goes through, work with it. Adjust the expenses of wage and employee benefits. The proposal, it sounds like, would not go into effect until late fall or even next year. You will not have to worry about the expense this season but it should be in your mind as you watch the work habits of your employees this year. The ordinance is written to award 1 sick hour for 30 hours worked. Do the math this season and determine the number of hours worked and the number of hours you will have to pay for sick time. Remember, as it is written now, sick time is accumulated and does not run out. This part of the proposal should be negotiated to minimize impact.
- Remember that this proposal, on the face of it, is coming from a good place. Employee wellness should always be considered in your business. If a business is willing to contribute to its employees, the employees will contribute more to the business.
- Discuss the fines for those that do not obey the new laws. Will this money go to the enforcement of these rules? Is there a way to put it into a fund for small businesses?
- In 2018 look at the option of hiring more freelance workers to avoid extra labor costs.
I am sure the entire state of Maine will watch this discussion and outcome. Creating productive work environments in our Cities is beneficial to the entire State. As our State struggles with an aging population and our youth leaving, it is important for employers to hear the concerns of the community and create viable opportunities. I encourage you as a business owner to be a part of the discussion and do not close the door. There could be a middle ground that works for everyone.