Sick leave is important. Yet, a proposal in Olympia to mandate sick leave for workers has the potential to do far more harm than good.
Government must move slowly in requiring employers to provide employee benefits. The plan being considered in Washington state goes too far.
Under the proposed legislation, the amount of sick leave and how quickly it would be accrued is based on the number of employees at that particular business. Workers, including those who are temporary and part-time, would accrue and can use sick leave if they work 240 hours or more in the state in a calendar year, according to The Associated Press.
The way it breaks down is:
Business with between four and 50 full-time employees would earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, with a cap of 40 hours.
Those working for companies with 50-250 full-time employees would accrue one hour for every 40 hours worked with a cap of 56 hours.
People working for companies with more than 250 full-time employees would earn one hour for every 30 hours worked, with a 72-hour cap.
Seasonal employees rehired by the same employer within seven months must have their accrued and unused sick leave reinstated.
Hinging sick leave on the size of the business seems arbitrary and unfair, particularly if you are an employee of a small company or the owner of a huge one. Perhaps this approach was accepted by some lawmakers because of a presumption that larger companies could better tolerate longer absence of workers.
Perhaps that is the case with some business, but not all. The tolerance for absences hinges on the type of business.
As a result, the unintended consequence of this type of mandate could be jobs will be lost or, at the least, employee hours cut.
The most obvious problem with this specific plan is the rules for seasonal workers. If employers must reinstate accrued and unused sick leave if they hire workers back within seven months, some employers simply won’t.
Who benefits? Certainly not everybody.
A more productive approach would be to strongly encourage all employers to offer sick leave to employees. Many, if not most, already do. It is simply a good business practice.
Perhaps a tax incentive could be used to prime the sick-leave pump or a more modest flexible proposal could establish sick leave at places that don’t offer it now.
No one should be forced to go to work sick.
There are benefits to employers as well as employees. Illnesses don’t spread through the work force and ill workers recover faster.
Taking it slow and getting it right is prudent when considering government mandates to private employers.