Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Boost productivity, economic growth with paid sick days

A new survey of Ohioans finds that 50 percent went to work at least once in the past year when they should have stayed home to get better (hat tip to The Inside Job):

The poll, conducted by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health, found the chief reasons employees in swing states Ohio and Florida were not taking sick days were because those days weren’t paid or because they felt pressure from their employer to show up.

Denying paid sick leave to employees is a classic case of “penny wise, pound foolish”. With paid sick leave available, workers are more inclined to take leave when they need it — instead of heading to work when they shouldn’t. The result?

  • Workers return faster to full productivity at work because they regain their health more quickly.
  • Sick individuals don’t infect other workers, resulting in additional lost productivity.
  • Morale and customer service improves; absenteeism, turnover and training costs decline.

Mindful of the economic and social benefits of paid sick leave, efforts are underway (or laws are already in place) to mandate sick leave in other states and at the federal level.

Never one to let the facts stand in the way of an opinion, the Heritage Foundation is still trying to dispel the notion that being able to stay home from work when you’re sick is a good idea.

They’re still scraping egg after an earlier go-round, but this time Heritage posits that if required to provide paid sick days, employers will just reduce overall pay to compensate.

Such simplistic reasoning is almost fatally attractive, but still falls short. Just cutting pay would be a sure-fire way to lose staff, who would quit as soon as they could to go to offering better wages.

Mandating paid sick days would actually level the playing field for all employers, so that those offering decent benefits to their workers aren’t at a disadvantage to those who currently don’t.

No one wants to work in a place that prioritizes money over health. So why should workers go unpaid when they’re sick? (Sidebar: Here’s a fun party game — ask people how much they would have to be paid to get sick. Start with the common cold, then the flu, migraines, pneumonia, mononucleosis, etc. It gets expensive.)

42% of American workers in private firms don’t have access to sick leave – that’s over 940,000 workers in Washington State. If 58% of our businesses have figured out how to incorporate paying for a few sick days into their business plan, the rest are creative enough to do so as well.

They just might need a little push to get there, that’s all.

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