from an expert in the field:
Debra L. Ness is president of the National Partnership for Women
& Families (
www.nationalpartnership.org), which leads a nation-
wide coalition in promoting paid sick days (
SEPTEMBER DEBATE RESULTS:
Ten years after 9/11,
is America safer?
FAMILIES AND BUSINESSES benefit when employers offer paid sick
days. Take the employee who is suffering from chills and a high fever. The
employee cannot miss a paycheck and still pay his mortgage and feed his
children, so he continues working. His productivity suffers and co-workers
get sick. If his boss offers paid sick leave the scenario could be very different. The employee could see a doctor, recover and return to work quickly.
There are more than 44 million workers in the U.S. without paid sick days, according to the
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These workers are more likely to go to work sick and send sick
children to school, burdening them and their families, jeopardizing their health and the health
of the community, and reducing business productivity and profits.
Research documented in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine shows that
paid sick days reduce costs associated with “presenteeism”—productivity lost when employees are
forced to come to work sick (estimated to cost $160 billion annually). They safeguard the health of
other employees, customers and the public by allowing sick workers to stay home. According to
the Compilation of Turnover Cost Studies, paid sick days reduce turnover and improve worker
loyalty, decreasing the cost of having to advertise, interview and train new employees.
Unpaid sick days also drive up healthcare costs. According to the report Paid Sick Days:
Attitudes and Experiences, employees without paid sick days are more than twice as likely to
seek emergency-room care because they can’t take time off to see doctors, and parents without
paid sick days are five times more likely to seek emergency-room care for their families. These
expensive trips often replace routine medical appointments and preventive care, leading to
higher health insurance costs.
Business experiences confirm the research. San Francisco has had a paid-sick-days law
since 2006, and employers of all sizes report that it has not adversely affected businesses or profits. Workers can earn five to nine days annually, but use an average of just three. One-quarter of
employees report taking none. Business arguments against paid sick days simply don’t hold up.
Providing paid sick days is a common-sense policy that should be available to all workers.
It’s the right thing to do for workers, for the public health and for America’s businesses. C
Percentage reflects votes
received by September 12, 2011.
AUGUST DEBATE RESULTS:
Should teacher layoffs
be based on seniority?
YES: 31% NO: 69%
Percentage reflects votes received by
August 31, 2011. Results may reflect
Debate being picked up by blogs.
from an expert in the field:
REQUIRING BUSINESSES TO provide paid sick leave would wind up
hurting many of the workers it is meant to help.
When the government requires businesses to provide a specific
benefit, they do. However, employers also reduce workers’ cash earnings
by an equivalent amount. Employers care about the total cost of the
compensation they provide their employees. They do not care how they
divide that compensation between cash wages and non-cash benefits.
Government-mandated paid sick leave would not increase workers’ total earnings. It
would shift their compensation balance between pay and benefits. Workers would get more
paid time off but make less money.
Right now, employees can voluntarily make this trade. The Family and Medical Leave Act
(FMLA) requires businesses to provide unpaid sick leave. Workers can choose to take more
unpaid sick leave and accept less pay.
Of course, many workers do not want to make this trade. But once the government gets
involved, it does not matter. Every worker without paid sick leave would exchange the new
benefit for a pay cut.
Mandatory paid sick leave is also largely unnecessary. The vast majority of full-time
workers—86 percent—already receive paid leave they can use when sick.
This raises another problem. When companies voluntarily provide a benefit, they can
discipline workers who abuse it. An employee who frequently calls in sick on Mondays and
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many employees already abuse their right to
unpaid leave. When employees claim bogus leave, employers must either dump their tasks on
co-workers or leave the job undone. If paid sick time also became legally guaranteed, these
abuses would multiply—to the detriment of both diligent co-workers and small businesses.
Forcing businesses to give paid sick leave seems sensible. And it would be, if Congress
could also repeal the law of unintended consequences. C
James Sherk is senior policy analyst in labor economics at The
Heritage Foundation (
Opinions expressed are those of the
individuals or organizations represented and
are presented to foster discussion.
Costco and The Costco Connection take no
position on any Debate topic.