Last week, we took a look at the states that have some form of paid sick leave, with Massachusetts in the spotlight. But because its such a contentious issue, it’s only fair to examine the argument from both sides.
Proponents of paid sick leave have built up a very strong case for themselves using the following arguments:
Containment of infection: The reasoning is that if a sick employee is “paid” to be sick at home, the chances of them infecting their coworkers are much, much less than had they showed up in fear of losing pay.
Less strain on the healthcare system: Depending on the data used, ill workers without paid sick leave are more apt to go to the hospital—the emergency room—because their health problems aren’t nipped in the bud and develop into something worse, something which could have been prevented.
More productive workers: The cost of absenteeism is a little murky, but the cost of sick employees working at a lowered productivity rate is $160 billion each year.
Companies enjoy higher worker retention: The more perks an employee has, the more likely they are to stay at that company instead of choosing another. And if paid sick days are part of the deal, employees tend to be more loyal to their company.
It’s hard to argue with the above examples, as they add up to a really strong and compelling case for why paid sick leave should be more commonplace than it is. But to paraphrase Newton, for every reason paid sick leave should be the case there’s a reason why it wouldn’t be a good idea.
The following reasons are given by people not because they enjoy being mean or vindictive, but because they truly believe paid sick leave just isn’t as good an idea as other options.
Present employees have a greater workload: If there are, say, 10 people in a department and one of them calls in sick, the other nine have to cover that person’s duties. The amount of work they have to cover increases with either the less employees there are, or the more who call in sick.
Costs have to be made up somewhere else: Paid sick time costs companies money, and they need to recoup that loss somewhere else. Usually, this results in reduced hours, layoffs, or cuts to other perks.
It can be used unnecessarily: There will inevitably be employees who use their paid sick days just because they can, not because they need to.
There’s an imbalance between seniority: Companies who value equal terms for all employees argue that the length of paid sick time based on seniority unfairly gives more days to employees who have been there longer, and fewer to newer workers.
Often, critics of paid sick time just favor an economically conservative point of view, believing that employees have what it takes to plan and budget for sickness and health. They believe that companies shouldn’t have to handhold their employees, and paid sick time is a way of doing that.