Erin Snyder: We All Benefit from Earned Sick Leave

Charleston Daily Mail - We all agree that we want a strong economy and good jobs in West Virginia. Read

The question is would a job still be considered “good” if you risked being fired for taking an hour off work to pick up your sick child from school or for staying home when you have the stomach flu? That’s the dilemma faced by nearly a quarter-million West Virginians who don’t get time off to deal with such problems.

Today, over 225,000 workers in West Virginia lack even a single paid sick day. So when they need time off work to care for themselves or a family member, they face a host of difficult choices.

Take time off and risk their families’ economic security by being docked pay, fired or facing other retaliation. Stay on the job and leave a sick child to fend for herself, or if the worker himself is sick, risk spreading the illness to coworkers and customers.

The broader public has a big stake in this as well, especially when it comes to cooks, waiters and others who handle food. About half of all stomach flu transmissions take place in food services, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And more than ten million cases of food-borne illness each year are caused by sick restaurant workers contaminating food while they work, the CDC found.

Children and the elderly also pay a price. Since most families now require more than one income to makes ends meet, parents who are unable to take time off have difficulty managing their caregiving responsibilities for their children and other loved ones. Parents without paid sick days are more than twice as likely to send a sick child to school or day care compared to parents with paid sick days, according to a study by the University of Chicago.

If workers spend more time caring for their families, employers sometimes respond by cutting pay, passing the person over for promotion or threatening retaliation. Providing paid sick time will help workers find balance in both worlds.

Businesses stand to come out ahead when workers have paid sick days. Offering the benefit reduces unplanned absences, improves productivity, and increases employee satisfaction.

Ultimately, these improvements reduce turnover, which can be very costly to employers. When a worker leaves, it costs the employer 20 percent of that worker’s average salary to find and train a replacement, conservative estimates show.

Whereas the estimated cost of providing earned sick days is around 1 percent of a worker’s salary.

Further proof of the benefits to business can be found in the experience of Connecticut, one of the first states to pass a law requiring paid sick days. More than a year and a half after the implementation of the law, more than three-quarters of surveyed employers expressed support for earned sick leave, according to an extensive study of the law’s impact on businesses by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Contrary to those who feared that the law would be a burden on businesses, the study found that it was relatively easy to administer, improved morale and reduced the spread of illness in the workplace.

When workers feel supported by their companies, they are not only happier with their jobs and more loyal to their employers, they also have a bigger commitment to their company’s success and its bottom line.

Enacting a paid sick time policy in West Virginia would make our families stronger, our workplaces healthier and improve the well being of all children.

No workers should have to choose between their jobs and their health, or the health of family members.


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