By requiring that all Philadelphia companies provide paid sick leave to their employees, City Council would be putting the city and local businesses at a further competitive disadvantage with communities in the suburbs and beyond.

City firms already coping with a job-killing wage tax and a thicket of regulations don't need another albatross in the form of an employee benefit that's not required just across City Avenue.

For low-wage workers, supposedly the biggest beneficiaries of the proposal, the impact at small firms could be just the opposite - as businesses struggling with a new expense are forced to lay off workers.

That concern, significantly, has led the city's African American Chamber of Commerce to join the larger business community in criticizing the measure that could see Council action this week.

Mayor Nutter has also joined the opposition, and describes the legislation as "onerous for business, and particularly for small business."

In an ailing economy, it's also hard to see how a paid sick-leave rule would improve the business outlook for many firms.

There's no question that it would be ideal if all working Americans had access to paid time off to nurse themselves, or a sick child, back to health.

At most large private companies, and most firms with union contracts, paid time off for illness is seen as a baseline employee benefit. So, the sick-leave proposal sponsored by Council Democratic Majority Whip Darrell L. Clarke and Councilman William K. Greenlee represents the best of intentions. Their goal to foster workplaces in the city that are better attuned to employee needs is commendable.

And in response to critics, the councilmen reasonably trimmed the number of sick days workers could earn to seven at companies with more than 10 employees and four days at others. They also exempt interns, per-diem employees, and workers with labor contracts.

Still, their proposal is fatally flawed. Even getting beyond the pros and cons of enacting any sick-leave mandate, it's an issue that should be decided only at the state or, preferably, federal level.

Like the 40-hour work week, such an employee-benefit requirement would need to be applied as broadly as possible geographically to keep the playing field level.

On sick leave, City Hall definitely should not dictate terms.