Paid Sick Days Help Employers

Cleveland Plain Dealer - October 26, 2007
   

The Cleveland Plain Dealer

By Jeff Coryell

House Speaker Jon Husted (R-Kettering) expressed opposition this week to the Ohio Healthy Families Act, proposed by a coalition called Ohioans for Healthy Families. (The group is primarily composed of unions but also includes the AARP, medical groups, and many Democratic elected officials and candidates.) The act would require companies with at least 25 employees to provide seven paid sick days a year (or a smaller, pro-rated number for part-timers). There are approximately 2.2 million Ohioans, about 42% of the workforce, who have no paid sick leave and must therefore choose whether to go to work sick or lose part of their pay.

As reported on the Columbus Dispatch blog The Daily Briefing, Husted said “When you’re the first state in the nation to do it, it sends a bad signal that you’re not trying to create a business-friendly environment, which in improving jobs might cost us jobs.” Ty Pine, legislative director for the National Federation of Independent Business/Ohio, also complains about the financial burden on small businesses: “We said this with the minimum wage, and it’s going to be true again: You’ve got ‘x’ number of dollars as a small-business person. You must provide workers’ comp, unemployment and now paid sick leave.”

A report by the think tank Policy Matters Ohio, however, finds that paid sick days actually save businesses money in the long run. Providing paid sick days can mean better disease containment, faster recuperation, and earlier treatment, which translate into saving money because fewer fellow employees get sick, duration of illnesses can be shortened, and workers can be more productive. Research by The Institute for Women’s Policy Research concludes that providing paid sick days would yield a net savings of more than $1.00 per worker per week, from reduced spread of illness, reduced turnover, and a healthier workforce.

The Policy Matters study also reveals that paid sick days help protect members of the general public from contracting illness. The proportion of workers with paid sick leave is particularly low in several occupations that have extensive public contact, such as retail trade (less than half); arts, entertainment and recreation (just over one-third); and accommodation and food service (less than one quarter). These three sectors combined have more than 670,000 Ohio workers without sick days. When those workers choose to work while sick, it means greater risk to the health of customers and patrons.

Mandatory paid sick leave makes Ohio healthier and a better place to be employed. Those are factors that should attract employers, not deter them. Given the overall savings to employers of providing paid sick days, the General Assembly should enact the law when it is presented to them for consideration early next year. If they do not act on the proposal, supporters can collect additional petition signatures and put the measure on the ballot in November 2008.

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