It pays to support paid sick leave
As campaign season gets into full stride, the economic issues facing our nation and our state are on everyone’s mind. One way New Hampshire can help alleviate the pains of an ailing economy is with a paid sick leave policy.For businesses, the benefits of such a policy include reducing workplace accidents, improving productivity, lowering the cost of replacing workers, and reducing stress and health-care costs.In June, the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center’s – NORC – released its Public Welfare Foundation Paid Sick Days Survey, which provides support for the benefits of paid sick leave policy.It notes that workers without access to paid sick days are twice as likely as those with access to say they have gone to the emergency room to get care for themselves because they were unable to take time off of work to get medical care – and we all know how expensive emergency room care is, often a cost that all of us have to bear.Why not provide paid sick days to all employees? It could be argued that such a bill would cause people to take too much time off from work. But according to 2009 data from the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute, workers without paid sick days take an average of 1.4 days off annually, while workers with paid sick days take an average of 1.6 days off annually. So the notion that people will take lots of days off if the bill is passed doesn’t hold up. And when workers can be open about upcoming medical appointments for themselves and their families, it’s easier for employers to set work schedules.Paid leave policy also contributes to fewer workers being fired or suspended for taking unauthorized time off and reduces the number of workers having to rely on public assistance due to a job loss.In fact, 23 percent of survey respondents indicated they were faced or were threatened with job loss for taking time off to care for a sick child or family member or cope with a personal illness.Having paid sick days is also good public health policy.According to the NORC survey, respondents without paid sick days were 1.5 times more likely to go to work even though they were sick. They were also 1.7 times more likely to send their child to school or day care sick. We all benefit when we can care for our health and the health of our families.Family values don’t end at the workplace door. This campaign season, the health of our economy is foremost on the list of priorities. The health of our workers should be as well. It pays to support a paid leave policy.Nikki Murphy is executive director of the New Hampshire Women’s Lobby & Alliance. For more information from the 2010 Public Welfare Foundation Paid Sick Days Survey, visit nhwomen.org.