Bill That Will Grant Rights to Part-Timers Ready for a Senate Vote
The bill that will allow part-timers working for companies with 250 employees or more to accrue vacation time and sick leave is expected to go for a vote in the coming weeks in the Puerto Rico Senate despite concerns by some business groups about its impact on the economy.
The Senate Labor Affairs, Consumer Protection & Job Creation Committee recommended approving the bill, which is slated to go for a vote in the coming weeks and then move to the House.
According to Senate Bill 1239, workers laboring between 66 hours to 114 hours a month will accrue between one-half (0.5) to one (1) day a month of vacation time and between one-fourth (0.25) and three-fourths (0.75) a day per month in sick leave. Right now, workers accrue one-and-one-fourth (1.25) a day per month in vacation time and one (1) day per month in sick leave after working more than 115 hours a month.
Labor Secretary Vance Thomas, who supported the bill in public hearings, said that in 2005, around 14.2% of employees in the private sector were part-time workers and about 50% of part-timers work in the fast-food industry. The most recent statistics, which were from March 2013, show that 17.9% of the total workforce was part-timers. That year, there were one million employed people on the island.
Restaurant Association Executive Director Gadiel Lebrón rejected the bill because of the difficult economic conditions in Puerto Rico. He said the island is one of the few jurisdictions in which workers accrue 15 days of vacation time and 12 days of sick leave for working more than 115 hours per month. Stateside, the amount of time accrued is less, he indicated.
While he acknowledged the measure is one of social justice, Lebrón said it “carries a negative impact [on commercial establishments’ stability]…. We cannot isolate this from the impact caused by the taxes in the past few years.”
P.R. Chamber of Commerce (CofC) Legal & Legislative Affairs Director Eunice Candelaria de Jesús said the entity supports all legislation that can strengthen employment within a reasonable regulatory environment that allows for job opportunities. However, she said the CofC could not support the measure. “The impact of Senate Bill 1239 would have a negative mark on the economy,” she said.
The immediate effect will be forcing employers to eliminate positions to pay for the costs.