Making a Case for Paid Sick Leave
Most of us will come down with a cold, the flu or other illness at some point during the year. If your employer offers paid sick leave, you can take the day off with pay and lay on the couch with soup and daytime TV to help you recover. If your employer does not offer paid leave, you must make the decision between going to work sick or losing a day of pay. Ill employees at work not only increase the chance of making coworkers sick, but they are also less productive. Even if paid sick leave is not required in your area, it is a good idea to consider implementing some kind of plan.
Requiring Paid Sick Leave
Earlier this year in the State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called on the U.S. Congress to pass a bill that would require paid sick leave for American workers. The U.S. has no federal requirement for paid sick leave. In the U.S., 40 % of employees in the private sector do not have paid sick leave.1 This is a sad number when you think about the reality that most of us will come down with a cold, flu or minor illness at some point during the year.
On July 1, California’s paid sick leave law goes into effect. California joins Massachusetts and Connecticut as well as a handful of cities with local ordinances that require paid sick leave. While these states are leading the way in providing paid sick leave, other states have gone the opposite direction and have enacted laws that prevent cities from putting local paid sick leave ordinances in place.
Working While Sick
The retail and service industries are notorious for offering little to nothing when it comes to paid sick leave. Employees who do not have paid sick leave will often go to work when they are not feeling well because they cannot afford to miss a day without pay. While an employer may consider paying for sick days an unnecessary expense, think about the effect that an ill employee can have on business.
For one, the employee will probably spread their illness to others. We have all seen this happen during cold and flu season as coughing and sneezing become a steady soundtrack in the background. We also hear medical professionals advise us to stay home if we get sick in order to prevent spreading illness.
Ill employees are also bad for customer service. No one wants their server to have a coughing fit as they carry food to the table. It reflects poorly on how you treat employees, and it leaves customers thinking more about the cold they might catch rather than the delicious menu.
For most of us, productivity goes down when we are not feeling well. Have you ever tried to work with a bad headache or when your mind is clouded by congestion and cold medicine? It would be better to give an employee the paid time off they need in order to rest and recover rather than forcing work out of someone who is in no state to do so.
A Necessary Benefit
Paid sick leave is an investment in employees’ health and well being. It just makes sense. A good paid sick leave plan will include all employees, not just those that are full time or in top positions. We need to recognize that employees sometimes need time off to take care of themselves. Offering paid sick leave can also make an employer more attractive to a prospective employee. It is an easy way to show employees that you consider their health to be important.
The new California law allows employees to use paid sick leave to care for a family member, and this is a good thing to consider adding to your plan even if you are not in an area that requires it. Doing so recognizes the needs of the many employees who occasionally need time off to care for an ill family member.
Healthy employees are productive employees, and providing paid sick leave gives employees a way to take care of themselves so that they show up to work feeling well. Paid sick leave is good for employees and good for business.
1Heymann, Jody, et. al. “Contagion Nation: A Comparison of Paid Sick Day Policies in 22 Countries.” Washington, DC: Center for Economic and Policy Research. 2009. Print.
About the Author
Stephanie Hammerwold, PHR, is the co-owner of Hammerwold & Pershing and specializes in small business HR support. Stephanie writes as the HR Hammer and is a regular contributor at Blogging4Jobs and The HR Gazette, and she gives presentations on a variety of job search and workplace topics. She specializes in training, employee relations, women’s issues and writing employment policy. Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.