New laws to benefit employees to avail Sick Leave

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lThe second is to look at this as a justifiable and necessary accommodation for American workers.

Both views probably have merit.

If you haven't heard of mandatory sick days laws yet, you will in the near future. The city of San Francisco has an ordinance going into effect that will require large employers to provide up to nine days of paid sick leave. Employers with less than 10 employees will have to offer five paid sick days.

Other cities are expected to consider similar laws and U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., had put paid sick leave on the agenda of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee that he shares.

That certainly doesn't guarantee that sick time legislation will spread like a wildfire, but at least it's now entered the national stage.

The reason for this is because workers need it. Currently, sick time is granted by employers who think it's a good idea. Only about half the nation's private industry workers have sick leave with pay.

Meanwhile, about 59 million others need it.

Workers get sick unexpectedly and they suffer injuries at home in the off hours. There is no way of guaranteeing that you can avoid illness or injury in our society.

A lot of other countries have already recognized that. In 2004, a Harvard University study reported that 139 countries provide paid leave for short-term or long-term illnesses.

There is a lot of talk today about presenteeism, the tendency for workers to show up for their work assignments when they are sick or too stressed to actually do the job.

When sick workers with colds or influenza show up in the office, they often spread illnesses to co-workers, exacerbating the problem.

The reluctance of some employers to grant paid time off for sick employees means that those employers could face even higher incidents of unscheduled absences because common diseases spread so easily.

Will mandatory sick time cost business more? Yes, but it is an unavoidable cost.

Among business organizations there is a tendency to immediately oppose minimum wage increases and mandatory health care for workers. Mandatory sick leave will be opposed, too, when legislation is starting to be drawn up.

But the only reason minimum wage laws exist and the only reason mandatory health care exists is because society deems them necessary.

Mandatory sick leave might take years or decades to build to that point, but it definitely will at some point.

© Copley News Service

Harvard University


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