One component of a good workplace is a plan ensuring workers can recuperate from illnesses at home, rather than having them come to work when they are not at their most productive. There is a strong business case for paid sick days - they help improve productivity, reduce health care costs, maintain consumer confidence, and avoid costly employee turnover.
In 2007, at least 145 countries provided some form of paid sick days to all employees. The United States is one of the few countries that does not require employers to provide sick days. Currently six cities and Connecticut do require it, but ten states have passed laws blocking localities from passing those laws. That means many employees feel pressure to come into work even when they’re sick, and cannot risk losing a paycheck.
Employees who work while sick are less productive, costing businesses money. They also run the risk of infecting coworkers, which further hurts productivity; in some cases, they could also risk infecting customers, which could lead to declining consumer confidence and less revenue for the business. Employees may also decide to seek employment at a company that offers better benefits, meaning businesses need to spend potentially thousands of dollars to hire and train new employees.
What’s At Stake:
According to the Integrated Benefits Institute, businesses lose $227 billion each year to lost productivity due to illnesses - including workers who take days off, but also those who show up but cannot perform well because they are sick.
Requiring paid sick days will actually be good for business. It will keep employees healthier and more productive, while alleviating the costly problem of employee turnover. It will also help ensure that consumer confidence remains high. By giving employees a chance to stay home and recover, businesses will know that their employees will come back to work refreshed and able to work harder.
As Andy Shallal, owner of ASBC business member Busboys and Poets, put it, “We want to attract the best people. People are going to want to work in a place where if they’re sick they’re not required to come to work to pay their rent.”
In March of 2013, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Healthy Families Act (S.631/H.R. 1286). The bill would allow workers to earn up to 56 hours of paid sick leave, earning an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Companies that already offer paid sick days would not be affected, and the bill would allow employers to ask for documentation if an employee took more than three consecutive days off.