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Is Paid Sick Leave Becoming The New Standard?

Doctor holds up sign that reads: "Is Paid Sick Leave Becoming The New Standard?"

When it comes to paid sick leave, the United States lags behind other developed nations. Most workers aren’t given any paid time off to care for themselves when they fall ill, much less a family member. Of course, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects employees’ job security, but without pay. This is all starting to change, as companies, cities and states continue moving towards providing paid leave.

But will we ever see paid sick leave come to fruition?

Many workers sure hope so! The 2016 elections brought paid leave into the spotlight as two states - Washington and Arizona - took it to the polls. Washington voters approved a bill requiring every employer to provide their employees with paid sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 40 hours worked, while Arizona voted in favor of a bill giving all employees accrued sick leave at a minimum rate of 1 hour for every 30 worked.

As it stands, there are 7 states, 30 cities, and 2 counties with their own paid sick leave laws, as well as 1 territory - Puerto Rico. However, a few more could be added to the list soon, as Maryland recently passed a bill for 7 paid sick days a year, Michigan introduced sick leave legislation, and the District of Columbia is in the process of reviewing a paid leave bill.

What are the benefits of Paid Sick Leave?

Paid leave is part of the economic foundation of many developed nations. So why isn’t this the case in the U.S.? Many American workers aren’t given the luxury of missing even a day’s work due to illness. It’s becoming increasingly important for employers to humanize their absence process and provide employees with the option of taking a paid leave, with tight enforcements. Paid sick legislation can have a positive effect on an organization’s workforce in the following ways:

  1. It prevents the spread of disease. This is obviously a major benefit as illness can easily move through the workplace, infecting many employees. Sometimes, staying home really is the best remedy.

  2. Helps productivity. Working while sick causes an overall decline in an employee’s focus, performance and overall functioning. When it comes down to it, the costs of diminished productivity may outweigh the costs of providing workers with paid leave in the first place.

  3. Limit workplace injuries. Workers with paid leave are 28% less likely to be injured than those without, because it has been shown that working while sick creates a higher risk of injury.

  4. Foster a better work-life balance.  Being able to take a paid day off to care for a family member creates a better work-life dynamic that is heavily valued among workers.

The bottom line: if your employees feel better, they’ll likely perform better!

What are Critics saying?

Even though paid leave seems logical, there are some who believe that it could have negative effects on an organization. Why? Smaller organizations may not have the necessary infrastructure to cater to all of their employees’ paid sick needs. They worry that this could lead to possible job losses and an increase in consumer prices as employers try to find a way to make up for the cost of providing paid leave. However, there is a lack of evidence to back up these arguments. In fact, the states and cities that have paid leave policies in place claim that they have not been hampered by the law, and are quite content with paid leave.

Is federal legislation in the works for the future?

The discussion around sick leave is definitely having an effect on policy. On February 7, 2017, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act was reintroduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). This national system proposes that all employers, regardless of size, must provide their employees with two-thirds of their pay for up to 12 weeks, when they take time off based on reasons covered under the FMLA.

This is the third attempt in five years for a national paid leave law to be put in place, and it’s hard to say if this act will become a reality. That said, President Trump has talked about his support for paid leave and what it means for Americans.

If this federal law does get passed, it could help with complex compliance issues that develop as more state and local leave laws come into effect and overlap with one another. This is already creating a new patchwork of legislation for employers to comply with. But that’s an issue to tackle another day.

Here at Presagia, we’ve commented on sick leave on numerous occasions like here, here and hereThe trend seems to be taking off and we will continue to monitor the latest laws to help you stay compliant! 

Now over to YOU: do you feel paid sick leave legislation is on its way to being a mainstay? Is it sustainable?

About Presagia

Founded in 1987, Presagia has a long history of helping organizations solve complex business problems with easy-to-use solutions. Today, this means providing cloud-based absence management solutions that enable organizations to be more efficient, control lost time and risk, and strengthen compliance with federal, state and municipal leave and accommodation laws.

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