Paid sick leave initiatives are gaining momentum across the country. Massachusetts’s voters just approved a statewide mandate this November, and California will start implementing its own in January 2015. Advocates are pushing sick leave legislation forward in Philadelphia and New Jersey, and laws are on the books in New York City and San Francisco.
So far, Connecticut is the only state with an active paid sick leave law in effect, and the results of that law are encouraging.
Connecticut passed the country’s first state-wide paid sick days law in 2012. The law allows most full-time and part-time employees to earn up to five paid sick days a year, and use their leave for their own illness as well as their child’s and spouse’s. In order to protect employees, the law includes a strict anti-retaliation provision. It also includes several carve-outs: all manufacturing workers are exempt, as are businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
This law faced a lot of opposition in the business community before it passed. Some called it anti-business, and worried that it would prove too harmful to businesses’ bottom lines. “It’s legislation like this that causes businesses to flee this state. It will guarantee increased absenteeism and costs associated with replacement of that employee for the day,”[i] said one owner.
But according to a 2014 survey by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), these concerns never came to pass.
“There is no evidence that the paid sick days law has been a ‘job killer’; on the contrary, in the period since it took effect, employment levels rose in key sectors covered by the law, such as hospitality and health services, while employment fell in manufacturing, which is exempt from the law.”[ii]
Roughly two-thirds of surveyed employers reported minimal (as in less than two percent) or no increase in costs due to the new law.[iii] Additionally, more than three-quarters of employers said that they now support the law, which indicates that it hasn’t been harmful to businesses overall.[iv]
Source: Center for Economic and Policy Research (2014)
The survey also addresses the concern about abuse of paid sick days. The argument essentially goes like this: employees would exploit and over-use their paid sick days or use them as vacation time, thus decreasing productivity and increasing operation costs. But according to the survey results, this fear is unfounded. The vast majority of employers – 86 percent – reported no cases of abuse, and 6 percent reported between 1 and 3 cases.[v]
The law has also succeeded in its goal to increase paid sick leave access across the state. Before the law passed, 88.5 percent of surveyed respondents had at least 5 paid sick days; a year and a half later, that number had risen to 93.7 percent.[vi]
Based on Connecticut’s experience, paid sick leave hasn’t been a job killer. With the benefits outweighing the costs, don’t be surprised to see the momentum for sick leave continue to grow across the country.
[i] Applebaum, Eileen; Milkman, Ruth; Elliott, Luke; and Kroeger, Teresa. (February 2014). Good for Business? Connecticut’s Paid Sick Leave Law. Center for Economic Policy Research. Available at http://www.cepr.net/documents/good-for-buisness-2014-02-21.pdf
[ii] See note i.
[vi] See note iii.