Paid sick leave may be a good thing for both employees and employers.
When Connecticut became the first state in the nation to mandate paid sick leave in 2011, employers were worried it would kill jobs, increase costs and give rise to a lot of abuse. It hasn’t played out that way and now much of the rest of the country is looking for ways to follow Connecticut’s lead.
The issue figured prominently in President Obama’s recent State of the Union speech when he called upon Congress to pass federal sick leave legislation. Interestingly, soon after that speech, the city of Philadelphia passed a paid sick leave law that will apply to many of the city’s businesses. Philadelphia’s push to pass that law was seven years in the making. Philadelphia has now joined Connecticut, Massachusetts, California and 16 other cities.
In Connecticut, the law says that employers with 50 or more workers must provide 40 hours of paid sick leave per year to their service employees. Workers accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. They may carry forward paid sick days year-to-year, but they can’t use more than 40 hours in a 365 day period.
And what about those dire predictions of the law killing businesses and spawning abuse? They don’t seem to have panned out in this forerunner state. Recent surveys of Connecticut employers have shown that two-thirds reported little or no increase in the cost of doing business as a result of the mandate. And what about those employee abuse concerns? An overwhelming majority of employers surveyed (86 percent) reported no known cases of abuse. In fact, three-quarters of employers surveyed now say they support paid sick leave because it improves employee morale.
Now I should say that there are many versions of paid sick leave. In Connecticut, most employers are not mandated to offer it because it only applies to businesses with 50 or more employees. Most restaurants and small businesses aren’t covered by the law- only 12 to 18 percent of Connecticut’s 1.7 million workers are affected by it. Contrast that with Philadelphia’s law that applies to businesses with ten or more employees. It’s expected to benefit 200,000 Philadelphians.
There’s no doubt that the movement towards paid sick leave is gaining momentum nationally. We expect it to be a major issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. Three states have passed it and 20 more are considering bills.
The evidence to date suggests that paid sick leave works for both employees and employers and makes sense all around. But the fight isn’t over- The argument that it increases costs and is bad for business will be in front of us all during the next national election.