Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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73 that working sick is considered a necessary evil. These obstacles are understandable, but until national paid-sick-leave laws change, it falls on business owners to set the standards for worker and customer health and safety. Many specialty-coffee-shop owners invest in ambi- ence and training to create a positive customer experience; preventing workers from coming in while sick is an important element of that, which if at all possible should be priced into the model. Even tiny companies can make paid sick days happen. Stacy Neff, own- er of One More Cup in Kansas City, Mo., has a system where all employ- ees start accumulating paid sick days after six months of employment. "It usually works out to fi ve days per year for full-timers and three days per year for part-timers. We are an incredibly small mom-and-pop shop, but it is important to support our folks in as many ways as we can," says Stacy, who has been running One More Cup for nine years. About a year into being open, the fl edgling coffee shop achieved enough fi nancial stability to start thinking about benefi ts. "There are a few reasons for offering paid sick days," Stacy continues. "The top is that it is simply right to treat your employees well and with dignity. The other main reason is that we are in foodservice. No one wants someone who is sick preparing their drinks and food. People can't get better if they don't have time to rest and heal. They shouldn't have to worry about not having the money to take a day or two off in order to get better." While there is an expense to offering paid sick days, Stacy says that it's well worth the cost in morale and retention—most employees stay with One More Cup for three to six years. "Our employees are our greatest expense overall, but worth every penny," she says. Todd Huber, owner of Undercurrent Coffee in Charlotte, N.C., has a similar viewpoint. At Undercurrent, employees receive a lump sum of paid time off after 90 days on the job. Todd lists two main reasons paid time off is a worthwhile expense for his company: "First, we recog- nize the importance of each employee as being critical to the success of our business. We expect a lot out of them, and we strive to give as much back in return. Providing ancillary benefi ts like paid time off are ways that we can somewhat compensate for the relatively low pay in the industry," he says. "Second, it motivates employees not to come to work when they are sick. This is important because we don't want to force people to work just because they may not be able to otherwise pay their bills when they should be at home recovering from an illness. Additionally, working while sick may lead to a worsening of conditions and potentially getting coworkers sick. Neither of these is good for the business or morale." Todd adds that he also sees a fi scal benefi t to offering paid time off in that a better workplace reduces turnover and increases productivity. "Both of these benefi t the bottom line," says Todd. Andrew Gough, owner of Reverie Coffee Roasters in Wichita, Kan., used a 50-cent price increase to build out a paid time off plan for em- ployees. He was concerned about negative reactions from customers to the price rise, but once it went through, only a few people commented on it at all. "Coming out of the corporate world, working in a building with lots of people, it's insanely costly for more than one or two people to get sick in an offi ce," says Andrew. "The same goes in a coffee work- place." He notes that because of cupping and dialing-in practices, coffee According to data from CDC, National Partnership for Women and Families, and Alchemy Data Collection, paid-sick-leave: • Increases productivity • Decreases chance of group contamination (sometimes leading to short-staffi ng or total shutdown) • Allows workers to recover faster and miss less time overall • Decreases the chance of customer contamination and illness • Increases retention, reducing turnover costs by up to 50 percent HOW PAID-SICK-LEAVE SAVES MONEY "There are shops in my town that com- pletely shut down for multiple days at a time during the last fl u season. That's a huge loss of income. You have to wonder, if [there] had [been] a policy in place, they could have avoided that. Did they really save money by not giving workers paid time off?" —Andrew Gough

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