Gotham Gazette

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Paid Personal Time is the Right Thing To Do - and Benefits Both Workers and Employers

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(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photo Office)

As a small business owner of a toy company in Brooklyn, and a working mother who employs a nanny and a house cleaner, I am standing up in support of the Paid Personal Time bill under consideration in the New York City Council. This piece of legislation would ensure that over a million New Yorkers, including domestic workers and other workforces, would have the right to paid vacation time, something I take for granted as an employer. 

One of the biggest motivations I had to be self-employed, was to have “the right” of having paid time off. I knew that by working for someone else, the right to paid vacation days wasn’t secured. As an employer and working mother, I can take the time I need to care for myself and be present for life’s special moments – taking my kids to their first day of school, seeing them graduate. I wouldn’t miss these moments for the world and it’s inhumane to think that some of the hardest working people in our city who need a break the most are denied this right.   

I know firsthand how an investment in workers pays dividends for employers. The success of my business and the caring environment at home for my children both depend on the hard labor of all my employees. 

At home, I provide my nanny almost six weeks paid vacation per year. I am also considering providing paid time off to our house cleaner in 2020 and have already started the conversation with her about signing up to Alia, a benefit program that provides paid time off to house cleaners.

At work, my business provides 16 days of paid vacation time and sick days annually to nine full-time employees. Additionally, my business partners and I are in talks to offer paid personal time to our two part-time employees next year. 

While these high-road practices definitely impact our bottom line, it pays off in the loyalty and dedication of our workforce. I know that having a happy and well-rested team contributes to the successful and productive results for my company. We all win. 

Passing paid personal time, we are also advancing women’s rights. From my 11 employees, 10 are women. As women, we know what it feels like to not be respected as a worker. For example, in the United States we don’t have a law to ensure paid maternity leave, affecting millions of working mothers and their children. My company, however, provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave for full-time employees.

With Paid Personal Time we have an opportunity to set standards for gender equality. All employees should be treated as full human beings who have lives outside of work. For example, in November, which is the beginning of the high season for our business, one of my employees took paid personal time for her wedding. Our team came together to make that possible by preparing our strategy in advance and making sure other employees could cover her daily tasks.

As an employer, I strongly believe we can be good employers and have a successful business. I want my employees to balance their job with showing up and honoring the other aspects of their lives. If my employees feel treated with dignity and respect, they will be happier and more fully themselves. My family and business benefit from it too.

I understand that passing Paid Personal Time would demand that we add more vacation time required by the law, and that it might create an additional financial cost. However, it would also mean that families will take time off to eat in restaurants, go shopping, travel, and provide an injection to our local economy. I want my business to reflect my values in treating people with respect no matter what. I accept that this is the ethical cost of doing business and know that at the end I am building a strong and loyal team of employees. 

When I became an employer I knew I wanted to do the right thing for my employees.

For all of these reasons, I urge the City Council to pass Paid Personal Time and bring our city up to the standards of London, Paris, Tokyo, and other places that already guarantee this right for all workers. Let’s all make the necessary commitments recognizing equality and fairness for all workers and employers. 

Emma Katz is a member of Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network since 2018, the CEO of Hazel Village, a toy company located in Brooklyn, and a resident of Jackson Heights, Queens.

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