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Woman in bed with box of tissues.
It's good to be able to stay in bed some days.
A few American cities (and one state—go, Connecticut!) have started catching up with the rest of the world when it comes to paid sick leave laws. But despite those cities and state and huge number of other countries embracing the notion that sick people should be able to stay home from work, you still hear a lot of American politicians claiming that sick leave is Bad For Business. And of course, whatever is reputed to be bad for business is going to be difficult to pass, even if the facts don't necessarily back up the claims. But it is good to have facts anyway, and here are some facts about Seattle's paid sick leave law, which went into effect in September 2012:
The audit found that 70 percent of employers in the city support the law, with 45 percent saying they are very supportive. This held true for businesses of all sizes. “These business owners, managers, and human resources professionals view paid leave as a valuable and important benefit for their workers,” the report says.

It’s not hard to see why they might feel so supportive. The costs and impacts “have been modest and smaller than anticipated,” the audit notes. The majority report no effect on profitability or customer service, with just 17 percent believing that it made them less profitable. The average reported cost of implementing it was about one eighth of a percent of their annual revenue and providing the leave for the first year was on average four tenths of a percent. To deal with any costs, 8 percent raised their prices or otherwise passed the cost on to consumers, 6 percent decreased raises or bonuses, 5 percent decreased vacation time, and just 2.7 percent reduced employment while only 0.7 percent said they closed or relocated.

The law's success isn't just about business owners' feelings, either:
All three measures of employment robustness – the number of Seattle firms with more than four employees, total number of Seattle employees, and total Seattle wages – grew in absolute terms over the first year of the Ordinance.
Not to mention all those people who could stay home from work if they were sick. There's still work to be done: Some employers either don't know about or don't fully understand the law, and aren't providing the required amount of leave. But the excuses politicians can reasonably make for opposing sick leave laws are rapidly evaporating—not that that will cause many sick leave opponents to stop making excuses.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 10:38 AM PDT.

Also republished by Seattle & Puget Sound Kos and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is getting out of control. What's next? (15+ / 0-)

    Decent vacation time, and humane maternity leave?

    “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

    by 420 forever on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 10:49:43 AM PDT

  •  Even if it does hurt businesses, (6+ / 0-)

    what the hell is wrong with a society that says it is okay -- even necessary -- to hurt people to avoid inconveniencing business?

    I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. - Susan B. Anthony Everything good a man can be, a dog already is. - pajoly

    by pajoly on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:23:33 AM PDT

    •  Because you still want the business to succeed (0+ / 0-)

      otherwise no jobs.  The question is how much does it hurt- if the margins are very small then there could be no room for increases in costs and the business will fail. So there has to be a common sense approach and that is why the law did not apply to all businesses as outlined in detail in the appendix to the study.

    •  It doesn't hurt business. That's the thing. (11+ / 0-)

      Most illness that healthy employees employees experience is infectious. Sure, there are bladder infections and the like. But most illnesses are the sort of thing that pass from person to person via air, surface or touch.

      One person gets sick. They don't stay home. Then someone else gets sick. They don't stay home. Then four  people get REALLY sick. They HAVE to stay home because they're really sick.

      Now the business is affected. Customer service is affected. Orders aren't being filled.

      And more people are getting sick in the meantime because slightly ill employees have to come to work just to keep the place functioning.

      I had a boss that used to send home sick employees. (We had paid sick time). No excuses. Go home.  Not surprisingly, we had very little illness sweeping through our office, even during high flu season.

      I've also worked in offices with martyrs (again, with paid sick time). They think they're too important to stay home. They get everyone sick -- AND indirectly, they get everyone else's spouses and kids sick as well.

      Stay home, (literally, stay home. Don't go shopping, to your local Starbucks, or go anywhere else in public) and crud doesn't spread. The city as a whole stays healthier.

      Customers walking in the door aren't as likely to be sick. Their credit cards aren't covered in infectious bacteria and viruses. They aren't coughing on surfaces.

      It doesn't harm business. That's the thing. It's a myth.

      I get what you're saying. And you're right. Decency shouldn't depend on profitability.

      But we should knock down the myth when it pops up.

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:40:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, I understand it's a false argument (4+ / 0-)

        But even if it were true, I don't care. A minor dent in profits, even if they could prove it, should not take priority over public health.

        Why doesn't the Right just come full out and re-advocate for slavery, but this time for the whole 99% of us. I mean, that'd really drive up profits, right?

        The entire argument says just how weighted our society is towards business. This would not even be a thought in, say, a Scandinavian country. The entire premise would be unthinkable.

        I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. - Susan B. Anthony Everything good a man can be, a dog already is. - pajoly

        by pajoly on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:57:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Correct. Long ago and far away when I was young (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        worldlotus, grover, Oh Mary Oh

        and worked for others, we had paid sick leave, so that the ugly bug the one with small children got from his kid who got it in school wouldn't take down the entire firm. The firm potentially got the time back because there would be days that work had to be done outside usual hours or days, and people who DID NOT take vacations, not out of the sick leave issue but generally. And businesses in my craft worked out coverage in case something could not be delayed, but could not be contaminated by X pox either.  This is a business habit which has faded in the last thirty years, a period during which business owners have for the first come concluded that G*d had no right to strike them with plague or lightning either.  

        It was just something employers needed to do, and a contingency which all in my craft honored, especially the parts about what to do when the truly infectios encountered the court schedule - answer: tell the court as the literal bench might not be able to contract third grade scum, but the occupant and clerks could and did, so illness adjournments were part of the drill.

        So, the answer is if sick leave is generally accepted in an industry, or trade, all will have approximately the same effects from it on profits and etc, and nobody can predict which one will be struck by the disease which never quits, as opposed to 24 hour olordy crud.

        •  Since St. Ronnie (0+ / 0-)

          The supporters of Reagan did not engage in business that catered to the public. Even Mr. G.Electric(US) was converting to a financial institution away from manufacturing. They could not even make toasters that worked.

          So having employees sick was not important.

          •  Forgot to add: (0+ / 0-)

            I worked for an airline and the attitude was to come to work at all cost, snow, hail, ice or a nasty flu.

            I saved my sick time for really important stuff, which thank God didn't hit too often and for too long. Had great attendance, sold lots of sick time back at $25 per 8 hours, when others retired with minimal sick time on the books.

            I generously passed my infections on to every one else. In the end the company reduced the annual sick time to 5 days per year, and I suppose everyone is using it all up, until they get a major injury...then the cafe can gets passed around. But the CEO who ran the company into BK will get a 15-20 million golden handshake, plus of course retirement, and other benefits.

      •  Its cost shifting (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Oh Mary Oh

        Businesses with a sick employee handling credit cards will infect customers and externalize the costs of not having sick leave.  Businesses should be required to internalize costs they otherwise will inflict on the rest of us.  

        I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

        by DavidMS on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 06:30:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  And decent hourly wages, oh say it ain't sooo (6+ / 0-)

    ohhh noessss. When we are all equal then Gawd, we are ALL equal. The hate is big with some...minds are changing though. Some days I just love being a Seattle worker! This would be one of those days.
    Peace and Blessings!

    “When you victim-blame, be aware that in all likelihood, at least one woman you know and love silently decides she cannot trust you.” ` Steph Guthrie

    by Penny GC on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:25:50 AM PDT

  •  Higher minimum wage, sick leave, and other (5+ / 0-)

    employee protections actually help level the playing field for businesses that do the right thing, especially small businesses trying to compete with the mega corporations.  We need to stop subsidizing the profits of billionaires and their companies at the expense of their employees and local businesses.

    “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

    by ahumbleopinion on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 12:43:54 PM PDT

  •  We had some employees (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trumpeter, Oh Mary Oh

    that would use their 10 allotted sick days up every year, so the company I work for changed sick and vacation days to "paid time off" days that they could use for any reason.
    That worked out much better for management and employees, though people who were using their sick days for extra vacation were peeved.

    Your beliefs don't make you a better person. Your behavior does.

    by skohayes on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 01:22:26 PM PDT

    •  That's a terrible idea. Sick time is not the same (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DeeDee001, worldlotus

      thing as taking a vacation. It's not like you can enjoy the beach while recovering from surgery. If a manager thinks that an employee is misusing sick time, he should bring it up with the employee and HR.

      Furthermore, 10 days is awful. Most countries offer between 20-30 days paid vacation PLUS paid sick time.

      “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

      by 420 forever on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 01:43:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, we have disability pay (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Oh Mary Oh

        and FMLA for longer absences like surgery, or pregnancy (12 weeks at full pay). I had back surgery 3 years ago and was out for six weeks, and got full pay the whole time.
        New employees get 10 days PTO from years 1-5, 15 from 5-10 years, 20 days 10-15 years and 25 days after 15 years.
        The company also offers health, dental and vision insurance, so I'd say our benefits package is pretty damn good.
        I know other countries may offer better benefits as far as days off, but we don't work there, so I'm not sure why that's relevant.

        Your beliefs don't make you a better person. Your behavior does.

        by skohayes on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 04:43:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I get a combination of short term disability (0+ / 0-)

          from various sources that adds up to 100% of my salary, but I don't have to pay all the taxes on it so I actually make more money when on disability (although part of my regular salary is deducted to pay for some of this). I used it twice, once when I was involved in an intensive outpatient group therapy program for my depression, and once when recovering from hip surgery.

          Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

          by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Apr 26, 2014 at 09:30:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  My current job (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      skohayes, worldlotus, Oh Mary Oh

      accumulates sick leave and vacation time differently, and allows you to sell back excess sick leave at the end of every year (you have to keep at least 90 hours, and can only sell back beyond that. If you have less than than on the books,you can't sell back) at 50%.  It also allows me to book sick time as vacation time, so I book all sick time as vacation, and get a check for ~$1000 every year by selling back unused sick time.

      It works very well.  But my boss is amazing.  Most places would not allow anything like this.

      I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

      by trumpeter on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 01:47:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  we have "comprehensive leave" (0+ / 0-)

      where I work, which is great for people who never use it for sick leave or other personal reasons, as the total is more than most places give for vacation time. I appreciate the flexibility as I can use it for my many appointments or other personal reasons. I haven't had any left over for vacations for a long time, but I would have to make some difficult adjustments if I didn't have the flexibility. I should note I'm a salaried exempt employee, so I might not be able to do the same if I were an hourly wage employee.

      Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

      by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Apr 26, 2014 at 09:26:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  So almost 1% of businesses closed their doors... (0+ / 0-)

    ...over this?  

    8 percent raised their prices or otherwise passed the cost on to consumers, 6 percent decreased raises or bonuses, 5 percent decreased vacation time, and just 2.7 percent reduced employment while only 0.7 percent said they closed or relocated.
    If correct, that's pretty disastrous.  I wonder what the percentage was amongst business that actually didn't have paid vacation previously?

    I didn't see a link to the audit in the news story to read further.  Anyone have one?

  •  In the long run staying home when ill is (3+ / 0-)

    better not just for you the employee but all your coworkers and customers.

    That "business managers" don't see this is a huge part of their suckitude.

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 03:30:11 PM PDT

  •  I think it's great when a food service employee... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    with the flu prepares my meals!

    Yum.

    Forget the business owner and just stay home, even if it is without pay as your health is far more important than the boss's bottom line and lack of ethics about exposing his patrons to those that are contagious.  If you see someone at work that is ill, advise of the same (you surely don't want to catch what they have, as well).

    "American Exceptionalism" a la Free Market Servitude - The beatings will continue until the morale improves.

    “My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there." - Rumi

    by LamontCranston on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 05:00:14 PM PDT

  •  We get PTO (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    "Paid Time Off" -- which counts as sick time/vacation time. You can call in and say, "I'm not coming to work today" and it doesn't matter if you're sick or just in the mood to skip work." Furthermore, you accrue PTO time every two weeks. If you work 40 hours a week, you get 2 hours of PTO per week (plus or minus, depending on how long you've worked there). I like not having to split up sick time and vacation time.

    "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

    by Dbug on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 09:42:31 PM PDT

    •  that would be a no fault system (0+ / 0-)

      & probably if you are out more than 1 shift, bringing a note from a medical provider will only count as 1 miss
      No pay for the "excess" missed shifts with option to convert vacation...a standard arrangement here in cali

      your mileage may in fact vary

  •  Always amazes me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jan4insight

    How can anyone imagine that treating people humanely is bad for business?

    Business should be about earning huge rewards for treating people well.   And it is that ideal of business that has kept class warfare at a minimum.   No one feels such a reward is unmerited.  But today business has become about earning huge rewards, screw the people.

  •  What would really (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    birdboy2000

    be bad for business would be requiring businesses who don't allow for sick leave to put up signs with the number of workers who came in each day with bad colds or flu.

    Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

    by ramara on Sat Apr 26, 2014 at 09:16:03 PM PDT

  •  Job Creators Protected Have Shitty Businesses (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite

    If you are worried about regulations forcing sick leave, overtime, health insurance, etc. you basically are running a shitty low wage business where the employees are being treated like shit. If I have a business selling anything besides the basics of living, these job creators are not increasing demand for my products. Why should I give a shit about them. Lets start trying to turn jobs in the secondary labor market of misery into jobs in the primary labor market.

  •  I worked for a company that had infinite sick time (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MrJersey, a2nite

    Seriously, there was no set amount of sick days.

    The philosophy was, we are all adults and if you're too sick to work you know it, so just let people know.

    You called in sick when you were sick, no problems.

    What this company discovered was, people used less sick time than if they gave you a set number of days per year. Yes, some people ended up being sick for two months, but these people wer truly very sick. You also did not have the attitude of "I have ten sick days and by gosh I'm gonna use 'em".

    This resulted on the average, of less than half the sick days used per person than when they used to give 10 sick days per year, and you didn't run into problems with emplyees who had major illness issues because the policy took that into account.

    What the Right Wing calls "being politically correct" is what my mama used to teach me was "being polite".

    by Walt starr on Sat Apr 26, 2014 at 09:27:24 PM PDT

  •  As if it would "help business" (0+ / 0-)

    if someone reports to work with the flu, infects half the staff and any customers they touch, and the whole office goes home writhing in pain.

    Great boost for productivity there. Now I call that "hurting business."

    And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

    by Pale Jenova on Sun Apr 27, 2014 at 07:43:15 AM PDT

  •  "It will hurt business" is an oft use Red Herring! (0+ / 0-)

    "It will hurt business" is an old business slogan used to counter-attack anything that may get in the way of rabid profit mongering in their "free market" world.
    Meanwhile, practically all profits have been going up to the top one-percenters for the last 3 decades or more, while worker income and wealth has declined dramatically.

    I think the old time worn business slogans have been well disproved, and are no longer relevant.  In fact, they are just out-right lies at this point.  It is time to re-balance the scales, and share more of the profits and wealth with the workers who deserve it.

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