Sick of Government Sick Leave Policies

CascadeNewLogoOn March 6 the Portland City Council may vote on whether to require virtually all businesses that employ six or more people to provide them at least five paid sick days per year.

Some supporters of this policy believe it’s actually immoral to make someone choose between coming to work sick and losing a day’s pay needed to take care of their family. Another perspective is that it’s immoral to impose such a policy when its cost may very well lead to less employment, especially for the working poor.

Supporters also argue that other cities and states are beginning to implement such policies, and at least 45 other countries already have them. Of course, other jurisdictions have lots of policies that reduce the flexibility and freedom of employer-employee relationships, and their economies generally suffer the consequences. Such impositions elsewhere shouldn’t justify adding them here.

Finally, some local economists believe the cost of extending paid sick days to employees is far outweighed by reductions in other business costs associated with employee turnover.

But if such positive tradeoffs were obvious to employers, they would offer paid sick days voluntarily out of their own economic self-interest. Of course, it’s not government’s job to encourage voluntary implementation of anything.

Remember that government “is not eloquence, it is force. Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”*

*Often attributed to George Washington, similar phrases were apparently in common use in the 1700’s.

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Employment, Portland | Tagged , , , | 35 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • 3H

    “But if such positive tradeoffs were obvious to employers, they would offer paid sick days voluntarily out of their own economic self-interest.”

    But that would be the problem, wouldn’t it. It’s not obvious to them even if that were, indeed, the fact of the matter. Perhaps those employers are operating off preconceived notions that are simply wrong.

    • Steve Buckstein

      True, employers may be wrong about this and other things too. But, they do have more economic self-interest in such issues than the politicians who seek to impose such regulations upon them.

      And, when politicians operate off “preconceived notions that are simply wrong” everybody suffers.

      • 3H

        And when employers are wrong, their employees suffer – enough of them are wrong, and just about everyone suffers as well.

        Their perceived economic self-interest may make them less able to rationally evaluate a program or initiative in a detached manner. They feel this will significantly hurt their bottom line, and they react.

        I think we see this with the issue of Global Warming (and let the debate yet again start). A lot of opposition to accepting the science behind, much less doing anything about, Global Warming is based more upon what sort of sacrifices may be asked for than any systematic study or understanding of the actual science.

        • Steve Buckstein

          As author of this post, I declare this a global warming debate-free zone (although without enforcement authority).

          That said, when employers are wrong nothing requires their employees to keep working for them. When government is wrong, it still requires all affected by its edicts to suffer the consequences.

          • 3H

            Now this is odd… when we discuss Right to Work legislation finding a new non-union job is considered onerous. When we are talking about employers, finding a new job is the answer.

          • Steve Buckstein

            I don’t think I’ve ever argued that finding a non-union job is onerous in a non-right to work state like Oregon. The point is that you shouldn’t have to find one; you should have the right to join or not join the union with no penalty.

          • 3H

            “It is unconscionable that workers are denied the right to earn a living simply because they decline to join a union.”

            What if we were to say, instead, “It is unconscionable that workers are denied the right to earn a living simply because they want employers to grant them reasonable sick leave.”

            Or.. “For most people, quitting or not taken [sic] an offered job because of union issues is not very realistic.”
            Steve Buckstein, February 6th, 2012.

            Perhaps it’s the word “onerous” that you object to? You have made the argument, however, that it is not right for someone to decline or quit a job because of the requirement to pay dues to the union. However, that is your solution for workers who aren’t getting sick leave, and can’t afford to take the time off if they or their children are ill.

            You are for Right to Work, and against governmental intervention on issues of sick leave. Evidently workers are should be required to wait for largess from their employer?

  • 3H

    Just for some additional reading:
    Business Week

  • Larry Sparks

    When small business come to the realization that it is in their best interest to implement this “Sick leave” policy, they obvisously will do so. Then again, this is just another reason for small companies to move out of the Portland area.

  • zanzara2041

    It’s the employees responsibility to save up enough money to cover their own sick days.

  • JacklordGod

    The hubris of those who have no interest in a business, and may very well have no experience in running one at all, telling that business what is in its best interest is self evident.

    Legislators are elected on one basis, popularity. The need show no particular competency in business, managing money or really getting much of anything done.

    Indeed, it is of advantage to the legislator to demonstrate complete incompetence in managing money so that all mistakes are portreyed as “unintended consequences of the best of intentions” when a child could have foreseen the bankrupting results of actions previously taken.

    It is with this formula that the legislator plies his trade – promising favors to enough people in order to get elected with nary a care for those his policies affect detrimentally.

    The legislator affecting surprise should the adverse consequences become evident is perfectly logical. The beneficiaries affecting the same surprise is corrosive to society in no small manner.

    We have been turned into a nation of people who either actually are idiots, or who pretend to be so in order to disguise their greed. If your skills justify paid sick days, you will certainly get them. This is why we rarely see neurosurgeons who are retained by a hospital for $10 an hour.

    • JacklordGod

      The obvious liberal response will always be something of the nature of:

      “Well, some of care about the working poor, obviously you only care about neurosurgeons.”

      The response to this is clear. The cleric who lives a life of poverty in order to help in the leper colony cares. The man who gives away a substantial portion of his income voluntarily cares.

      The liberal who does little self sacrifice, but expresses his morality in telling others what to do is neither moral nor caring.

      Let those who wish for paid sick days for the minimum wage employee start up a charitable fund to pay for them. That would show caring as well as morality.

      Let those who profess to care so much about the downtrodden worker work on their own time, and with their own funds to take care of that which they feel should be remedied.

      Will we see such action? No. Where we see the family who has been burden by bills due to sickness or poor health, we generally see the church. Certainly we don’t see the Socialist Workers Sick Day Fund.

      Any why is this?

      The answer is simple. There is no care whatsoever for the worker and his sick days. They are a pawn. just as the prisoners at GITMO were a pawn to win an election, forgotten once it was over. Just as the supposed concern about waterboarding evaporated to be replaced by a presidential license to kill. Just as the horrible invasion of rights by wireless wiretapping poofed into the ether – So is the sincerity of concern about workers sick days.

      It’s about control. Sick workers now being the whore walking the street after GITMO prisoners got too old for the job.

  • ardbeg

    Is this really that hard to figure out? No, employers don’t want their employees coming to work when sick (even if they don’t realize it). Why? because they are unproductive (why pay full wages for poor work), they don’t want them getting other employees sick and having them working at less than full production and they don’t want them getting their costumers sick either. Solution-the employee pays 20 cents for each hour worked into a sick leave account, the employer pays 10 cents into the same account. After about 6 weeks that employee, typical $10 hr worker, would have earned a sick day. Over the course of a year 5-6 sick days could be earned. There, problem solved.

  • mike

    Listen to me and listen to me heavy now. If I am sick it is not my fault. So, why dock my pay. When I get better I come back to work and work very hard.
    If anything they should give me 15 days of paid sick leave and a bonus if I don’t use them. No one wants to be sick.

    • Myke

      Standing in the rain without a coat and catching a cold is your fault. It’s not an employers responsibility to take care of your health, its yours and yours alone.

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