Make Paid Sick Days Universal
By federal law, all employees, including hourly and contract workers, should receive at least six paid sick days a year. Pro or con?
Pro: Flu Sufferers Belong in Bed, Not in the Cafeteria
Everyone gets sick. Yet half of U.S. workers don’t have paid sick time. They find themselves forced to choose between going to work ill (or leaving a sick child home alone) and losing pay, or, worse, even their jobs. Unlike 145 other nations, the U.S. has no law that requires employers to provide paid sick days.
Business argues that it would cost too much. But it costs too much not to do so. Without paid sick days, our public health suffers. Workers have no choice but to come to work sick and spread colds, the flu, and other ills to the public. In fact, the workers least likely to be provided paid sick days are those who prepare and serve our food, care for the elderly, look after our children, and help us in retail stores.
When workers must come to work sick and spread illness to co-workers, it results in greater absenteeism. And workers without paid sick days may end up losing their jobs when they must care for themselves or a sick family member, which in turn translates into high turnover costs. Indeed, a 2008 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that businesses experience significant savings when they provide paid sick days.
America’s families want change. In a recent nationwide survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, three-quarters of those polled said they viewed paid sick days as a basic right of employment that government should guarantee. Business lobbyists will argue—as they previously did when they resisted establishing a minimum wage and creating family and medical leave—that providing paid sick days will result in job loss. But San Francisco, the first city to institute a law that requires employers to provide paid sick days, has experienced job growth, not loss.
Workers should not have to lose pay or their jobs when they or a family member gets sick. Having paid sick days is just another win-win standard where better lives and better business go hand in hand.
Con: Don’t Shackle Small Business to Costly Benefits
Most small business owners, such as the ones we represent, oppose government mandates like paid sick leave. The reason? These laws force small business owners to implement policies that may not be in the best interest of their workers.
In our view, small business owners should be free to do what is best for them and their employees. If a federal law requiring paid leave is passed, employers and employees will no longer have the freedom to negotiate which benefits best meet their mutual needs, such as paid sick leave, vacation, or health care. Often, small employers can only afford one.
Furthermore, the legislation isn’t needed, because many small business owners already provide some type of paid time off to their employees. The Federation of Independent Business Small Business Poll conducted in 2003-04 revealed that 96% of small business owners already provide flexible working hours for their employees when personal situations arise.
In addition, 75% of employers voluntarily offer some form of paid sick leave to their employees, and 67% of small business owners most recently granted family leave as paid leave.
Legislation that forces businesses to provide paid sick time could cause small business billions of dollars and make it more difficult for small firms to meet their employees’ needs, let alone expand and create jobs, further hurting the U.S. economy at the worst possible time.