In his column "A Back-Door Tax" {op-ed, July 21} Beryl W. Sprinkel, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, attacks proposed legislation for mandated employee benefits. These include health insurance, family leave policy and advance notification of plant closings.

Characterizing such measures as "well intentioned," and "designed to show compassion for workers," Sprinkel asserts nevertheless that they "miss their mark . . . {imposing} hidden costs on employers, workers and consumers."

By focusing on the alleged costs and ignoring the obvious benefits, Sprinkel is being penny-wise and pound-foolish. A good case in point is the Kennedy Minimum Health Benefits Act.

This legislation would require all employers to provide a basic level of health benefits for their workers. Sprinkel argues that this would increase health insurance costs for employers. In fact, for most corporations, just the opposite would occur.

There are nearly 30 million working Americans and their families with no health insurance, and many millions more who are underinsured. We all pay for the cost of their health care through higher premiums and taxes. The majority of businesses that do provide health insurance are unfairly subsidizing the cost of care for employees of their less responsible competitors.

By mandating health insurance coverage for all workers, most corporations would probably have their health costs reduced, since there would be fewer uninsured people. Further, the Kennedy bill develops a system of regional insurers that would reduce the cost of health insurance to small businesses by 30 percent.

Sprinkel also ignores the cost to corporations and to overall productivity of uninsured employees who become seriously ill because they don't go to the doctor in time, or don't go at all.

His criticism of the parental leave bill also misses the mark. He exaggerates the cost to corporations of providing unpaid leave to employees and ignores the cost to their employees' careers of policies that do not guarantee a job after childbirth. In fact, it is in the interest of most businesses to provide for continuity and career advancement among their employees.

The current report of Sprinkel's Council of Economic Advisers observed of women workers a fact that is just as true of men. "The amount and type of training women acquire signals expectations . . . . Women who plan continuous careers are more likely to choose apprenticeship training or make specific investments in schooling as preparation for a specific occupation."

Measures such as guaranteed parental leave and employer-provided health insurance make continuous and more productive careers possible for all working people.

In attacking the Senate-passed amendment mandating advance notice of plant closings, Sprinkel also misstates the costs. He assumes this measure would cause plants to stay open longer than they would otherwise. In fact, corporate decisions to close plants usually occur well before two months of the actual closings. The issue is simply whether they will have the decency to give their soon-to-be former employees a little warning.

Few people would dispute that advance notice is necessary to lessen the disastrous economic and social impact of a plant closing or massive layoffs. What is required is displaced-worker training, education, skill upgrading and job placement. These need to be started before workers are desperately scrambling for whatever employment they can find.

The legislation just passed by the Senate does not require the employer to provide any training, only to give a scant 60 days' notice, in which time municipalities, unions and private agencies can try to put programs in place. A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey shows that two-thirds of mass layoffs (50 or more workers) occur with no advance general notice. How this strengthens the economy is not explained by Sprinkel, nor is his claim substantiated that notice requirements would result in fewer jobs.

The three proposals Sprinkel criticizes would each provide greater security for workers and their families. Perhaps more important, these measures would go a long way toward guaranteeing a more productive, happy and fulfilled work force -- one that would have greater loyalty and commitment to its employers than currently exists.

Steve Max is economic policy director and Robert M. Brandon is Washington director of Citizen Action, a Washington lobbying organization.