As Council considers 'paid sick leave' for businesses, City of Austin struggling with own policy

District 10 City Council Member Alison Alter says there is a strong argument for paid sick leave from a public health and social justice perspective.

"It matters to the mom who could stay home with her kid," Alter said.

But she's also concerned about how Council Member Greg Casar's proposed ordinance will actually play out for businesses.

"If we're going to move forward with paid sick leave it ought to be an effective and enforceable ordinance and it also should be something that on the ground the businesses can use to benefit their employees and not hurt their employees," Alter said.

During Tuesday's work session, City of Austin Human Resources Director Joya Hayes said in order to enforce the earned paid sick time ordinance in the community they would need a handful of new employees, some of them temporary.

"The question was to look at the City and the fact that we're not providing sick leave to our temporary workers.  So is that true for part time and full time?" Alter asked.

Hayes replied "Yes."

"So we're going to hire people to temporarily work to lead an initiative to provide paid sick leave throughout the city and they don't even get paid sick leave?" Alter said.

Hayes responded if the ordinance passes and goes into effect those City government employees not currently getting paid sick leave will get it.  Casar says the City isn't exempt from the ordinance, but a separate resolution does have to be passed first.

"We can't pass an ordinance that imposes a civil penalty on a government including ourselves.  The way we would give our temps sick leave is what we did last budget which was direction to give our temps sick leave.  And then me and my co-sponsors also have a resolution for the March meeting to say whatever we pass in this ordinance we want our own temps to get to," Casar said.

Hayes said the cost for fully implementing paid sick leave within City of Austin government would be somewhere between $350,000 and $1.4 million, Stressing that the $1.4 million is an unlikely scenario on the high-end.

"We are proposing an ordinance on business and we don't do this ourselves right now.  What's worse than that though is we don't even know what it would cost or how this would play out with our employee mix," Alter said.  "From our lifeguards to our event folks, we don't even know which employees this effects."

"My feeling is that until I feel like we're 'walking the talk' right now I can't in good conscience move forward with this because we're not doing it and I don't know exactly what it would take for us to do it," Pool said.

Alter says she's not sure Council will have all of the answers to these questions by Thursday.

"This could be great for Austin both for the workers and the businesses but it will only do that if we take the time to craft it and get it right," Alter said.

City of Austin Human Resources told Fox 7 Wednesday afternoon even though temps don’t currently receive sick time, Council provided money in the fiscal-year 2018 budget to start a pilot.

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