Push for paid sick time rankles Hawaii eateries

Push for paid sick time rankles Hawaii eateries

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Highway Inn has 110 employees in its two locations, and about a half of them get paid when they're out sick.

"We do offer our paid time-off program to our full-time and not to our part-time staff," owner Monica Ryan said.

That could soon change.

State lawmakers are considering a proposal that would require companies with 50 or more employees to offer paid sick time to full- and part-time food service workers.

The initiative is aimed at stopping the spread of illnesses.

Hawaii Children's Action Network Executive Director Debra Zysman said the mandate is long overdue. She estimates about 70 percent of low-wage workers have no sick leave.

"Families are in the workforce, both the mom and the dad. There's often a time when you need a day or two off because somebody's sick and you shouldn't be at work," she said.

Meanwhile, a measure moving through the Senate would allow workers to carry over up to 40 hours of sick time from year to year.

That's got Highway Inn's Ryan concerned. She fears the added expense would be another bite at the bottom line of eateries struggling to make a profit.

"The restaurant industry has dealt with the Hepatitis A outbreak last year," she said. "We're also dealing with the current minimum wage increases. We're also dealing with increased healthcare costs."

Four states require employers to pay employees for sick days.

Zysman doesn't think a Hawaii law would lead to abuses.

"You think about how many sick days people are taking, it's usually a couple days a year. We think the cost benefit pays off in our favor," she said.

But Ryan feels the number of people who'd benefit doesn't offset the expense, and the food service industry has a high rate of turnover.

"You're doing all this administrative work and the employee might not stay for you for more than a year," she said.

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