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Small Business Squabbles Over Paid Sick Time Laws

It's too soon to tell what impact the Connecticut law is having on businesses, Markowski says. But he also notes that the sick leave law is one of many sources of uncertainty for companies in the state â¿¿ they've also had to contend with state tax increases and they're still waiting to see how the health care law will affect them.

Among the consequences cited by opponents of paid sick time: Companies will have to pay overtime to replacement workers, financially strapping businesses that are already struggling in an uncertain economy. The added expense will prevent them from expanding, or hiring other workers. Keeping track of accrued sick time will force an owner or another employee to take time away from other critical tasks.

Those issues are likely to be raised in Congress, where Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, have reintroduced the Healthy Families Act, which would require that workers be allowed to earn up to seven days of paid sick time a year. DeLauro has introduced such a bill in every Congress since 2004. In the last Congress, the bill didn't make it to the House floor.

DeLauro expects opposition from small businesses, but she notes that companies with fewer than 15 employees will be exempt.

"This is not only helpful for workers, but smart for employers," she said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It reduces turnover, increases productivity and prevents the spread of illness."

A study by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics issued last month showed that workers generally take few sick days. Those in industries including financial services, information, transportation and professional services took an average of about four sick days a year. Those in the leisure, hospitality and construction industries took about two days.

Many small company owners say paid sick time is good business.

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