Jul 01, 2013

Paid Sick Leave: Productivity Lost or Employee Satisfaction?

Many states and cities have recently passed regulations requiring employers to provide sick days for workers. New York, the latest region to join such cities as Seattle, Washington D.C., and San Francisco, passed a law this May requiring businesses with over 20 employees to provide five paid sick days beginning April, 2014.  Businesses with 15 and more workers will have until October of 2015 to comply.

Paid Sick Leave by Region

paid sick leave by region

Currently, there are no federal legal requirements for paid sick leave. For companies subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Act does require unpaid sick leave however.  FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical situations for either the employee or a member of the employee's immediate family. In many instances, paid leave may be substituted for unpaid FMLA leave.

Paid Sick Leave by Sector

Paid Sick Leave by Sector

Two Opposing Viewpoints

The legal enforcement of paid sick leaves has prompted a debate among employers, advocates and legislators.

Supporters believe that mandatory paid sick leaves will help prevent the spread of diseases by allowing workers who are ill or have a sick child to stay home without the fear of losing wages or a job. Other supporters view the issue as a matter of work-life balance.

Some employers oppose the regulations arguing that their costs will increase, resulting in less hiring and possible layoffs.  This opposition has even driven some states to overturn paid sick leave laws.

However, according to Eileen Appelbaum, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the offering of paid sick leaves is a one-time cost spike of 2 percent in payroll costs.

“Many countries have had a national conversation around ‘How do we make it possible for people to care for kids and the elderly and be productive employees?’ We are having a conversation in this country today that is 40 years overdue. The general attitude here when you say, ‘My kid has a fever’ is: ‘You took the job, you knew you had a kid, you figure out how to get here.’” ~Eileen Appelbaum, Center for Economic and Policy Research

According to Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy for the National Business Group on Health, most large employers already have policies of generous paid leaves.  He feels that  making it legally mandatory is an unnecessary administrative burden.

Paid Sick Leave by Company Size

Paid Sick Leave by Company Size

“About one-third of all workers do not have access to paid sick days” ~U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics