Mandated Paid Sick Time: A New Angle

by Michael Haberman on February 20, 2008 · 0 comments

An article in the Kiplinger Online Newsletter asked the question “Is Paid Sick Leave Coming to Your State?” The opening paragraph states the traditional arguments for and against mandated paid sick leave. “Efforts are growing across the country to require employers to provide paid sick leave for their workers. Advocates say it is both unfair to employees and a public health hazard to make them decide between staying at home without pay or going to work ill. The business community says such a mandate could put many companies out of business or that workers will see pay and/or other benefits shrink.”

The article further states that 10 state legislatures are considering legislation that will require employers to provide paid sick time to employees. And they see this as being a growing trend. (And depending on the outcome of the Presidential election it may be seen on a national basis as well.)

It was an ending paragraph that really caught my eye about this article. “Growing interest in paid sick leave does not just reflect concern over workers, but the threat to coworkers and the public. “In fact, the industries with the most employees who lack paid sick days are those with the greatest exposure to the public: hotels and food services, home health care and child care,” quotes one advocate as saying.” So mandated paid sick leave for the good of the PUBLIC and other employees.

This is an interesting take and certainly one that requires some consideration. As our businesses require more and more “intellectual capital” and hence our economy requires more and more reliance on “intellectual capital” does it make sense to protect that capital by not exposing it to diseases that come from people to people contact? HR articles are already calling for companies to encourage sick employees to stay home and not infect other employees. How much of a step is it to mandate that we protect our resources (the human kind) from exposure to productivity reducing illnesses. I am not necessarily talking about the common cold here, but major strains of flu can have a very detrimental effect. I know of one team that worked closely together ending up with almost everyone on the team being very sick at the same time. What would have happened if that had been a life-threatening illness, such as avian flu? An entire functioning unit wiped out?

Now I am not a big advocate of mandated sick time, or mandated anything, but changes in today’s world politically, in the nature of disease, and in the nature of human contact may force us to rethink how we handle situations in the workplace such as paid sick time.

Tell me what you think.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Anonymous February 20, 2008 at 11:06 am

We just had several (10+) people out last week with the flu. The previous Friday, we had conducted a company-wide meeting that could have contributed to our “epidemic”.

Since it is early in the year. everyone had paid time off to use and decided to stay home with their sickness. I am not sure the same would happen if it had been October.

As a public health debate, I tend to agree that more paid sick time should be available-but with the increasing popularity of super flexible work schedules, I am not sure that is needed everywhere or should be government-mandated.


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