Sick leave becomes an electoral issue

Nov 20 2007 by Derek Torres Print This Article

Straight out of the "Only in America…" files comes a new polemic – should companies pay for sick time off? In many of years of working in the US, I can't say that I've been unfortunate enough to come across an employer that didn't offer sick days – even if they were cleverly disguised as PTO (Paid Time Off). Well, now, such debate is heading straight to the voting booth!

That's right – in 2008, no less than 13 states are voting via referendum whether or not to oblige employers to pay for sick leave. Hopefully, it's a foregone conclusion that such measures would pass.

I can't imagine who wouldn't vote for such an initiative other than business owners or self-hating employees who think that forcing their employer to do something good for them would be unnecessary government interference.

Many of you, especially those in the US, might mistakenly think that paid sick days are the norm. Wrong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (thanks, USA Today), 43 percent of employees in the private sector (50 million people) don't get paid sick leave.

Mind you, I'm not talking about taking three weeks or a month off, in which case STD or LTD insurance might kick in, thereby saving the employer from having to pony up the dough, but I'm talking about John having a bout of the stomach flu and deciding to stay home on Tuesday.

Companies argue, not surprisingly, that if they had to pay employees sick days, they might have to cut down the number of employees or benefits. Frankly, if a company is starting to nickel and dime employees out paying a few days out of the year due to illness, I can't imagine that their other benefits are much to write home about.