Published on 5/15/2010 12:00:00 AM
When an employee shows up to work sick, it creates a disruptive environment. All the coughing and sneezing is unpleasant for more than just the sick employee; coworkers may also be distracted or even contract the illness.
The sick truth
At least 26 percent of American workers admitted to going to work when sick, according to an NSF International flu survey. If an employee catches the flu but simply cannot afford to miss a day of work to keep up with rent, car payments and daycare, the employee is more likely to show up to the office sick.
Although this disruptive environment could be mitigated with paid sick leave, only Connecticut, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York City, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C., have laws guaranteeing access to this benefit. Paid sick leave enables employees to take a certain number of days off per year for personal or family illnesses. There are currently no federal requirements for paid sick leave, and even the requirements for unpaid leave - like the Family and Medical Leave Act - come with a laundry list of conditions. However, there are many advantages to paid sick leave in which both the employee and the employer can benefit.
The advantages of offering paid sick leave include:
- A better candidate pool
- A healthier workplace and preventing the spread of disease
- Higher productivity
- A better work-life balance
- Possibly lowering healthcare costs by preventing illnesses from escalating
New York employer requirements
One legislative trailblazer for paid sick time is New York City, where a new amendment to the New York City Earned Sick Time Act took effect April 1. For every 30 to 40 hours worked, NYC employees gain one hour of paid sick time (up to 40 hours per year) that can be used to care for their own health or for the health of ill family members. If an employer has fewer than five employees on the payroll, the sick leave can be unpaid, but it still must be offered. NYC employers will be subject to penalties if sick time is denied, not paid or otherwise violated. With such a large city setting this standard – after following the likes of Seattle, San Francisco and D.C. – other influential cities and their area businesses may follow.
Considering a policy for your company
If your business decides to follow in the footsteps of these trailblazers, be sure the sick leave program is being used properly by employees. Most sick leave policies separate these allotted days from vacation days. Consider requiring a doctor’s note before or after the employee’s used sick day to distinguish between the two requests. You should also be aware of the costs of providing paid sick time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it costs the employer 23 cents per hour of paid sick leave used in the company. Before you make a final decision, consider the pros and cons of offering sick leave to determine if it’s the best choice for your company.