Who Really Pays for Paid Sick Leave?

A new study shows that workers aren't staying home when they're sick, in part because they aren't paid.

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Anxiety over the financial repercussions of taking a sick day had 50 percent of Ohioans heading to work when they should have stayed home in this past year, according to a new survey.

The poll, conducted by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health, found the chief reasons employees in swing states Ohio and Florida were not taking sick days were because those days weren't paid or because they felt pressure from their employer to show up.

Supporters of a sick-leave mandate are trying to get a measure onto the November ballot in Ohio. The proposed legislation would require employers of 25 or more workers to provide seven days of paid sick leave annually to employees who work 30 hours or more a week.

At least one Ohio legislator fears the initiative would result in job losses in a state already hard hit by the weakened economy.

There are efforts underway (or laws already in place) to mandate sick leave in other states and at the federal level.

One naysayer: The Heritage Foundation suggests that workers would ultimately take a pay cut if employers were required to provide paid sick leave:

When considering the cost of employing workers, employers focus on total compensation; they do not care whether workers take their pay in the form of wages or benefits. Employers currently pay their employees an average of $0.30 per hour in sick leave benefits and $1.94 per hour in all forms of paid time off.

If Congress requires employers to provide paid sick leave, employers would not increase workers' total compensation. Rather, they would increase the amount of compensation they provide as sick leave and decrease other benefits or wages, leaving workers' total compensation unchanged. The [proposed legislation at the federal level] would only change how workers receive their pay, not how much they are paid.

Of course, employees who aren't paid for their sick days and come to work with the flu are ultimately expensive for their employers. They aren't particularly productive, and they make everyone else sick.

Another benefit: Paid sick leave is giving one man in England the opportunity to pursue a new career. The Telegraph reports that Clifford Allison, a lawyer with the Crown Prosecution Service's Special Crime Division, has been working as a nude model while on long-term sick leave.


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