Other Campuses: Work and health is no longer a decision

(U-WIRE) MADISON, Wis. – Employees should never be forced to choose between their employment and the health of themselves or their family. Unfortunately, this is exactly what many without paid sick leave must do.

A sensible, practical initiative to provide workers with paid sick leave while protecting the interests of small business deserves support as it works its way through the city council. If passed, private employees could earn up to nine paid sick days a year – at a rate of one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours of work. Nine days of paid sick leave gives the average worker enough days for his or her own sick days and enough days to stay home with their sick children.

Over half of all America’s low-wage and part-time workers have no paid sick leave. If enacted, the paid sick leave proposal could help more than 25,000 workers in Madison, Wis., to avoid choosing between their body and their employment.

However, business owners have some valid concerns. They should never have to deal with employees taking advantage of a paid sick leave system mandated by government. A provision that requires employees show documentation of their health condition to their employers if they take three sick leave days consecutively will help prevent any University of Wisconsin-Madison-like abuse of paid sick leave.

A significant financial burden could be placed upon businesses with less than five employees by a paid sick leave ordinance. A significant function burden would also be placed upon very small businesses if multiple employees become sick simultaneously. Thankfully, city lawmakers were attentive to these concerns and wrote and exempted businesses with less than five employees from the ordinance.

In the end, business owners are just afraid of the costs entailed by paid sick leave. The short-term costs seem daunting, but in the long term businesses could save money. Sick employees will not come to work and infect their coworkers, which costs employers $255 per employee annually according to a study from Cornell University. In addition, employee health and morale will rise, which leads to higher productivity and lower turnover – both good for the bottom line.

Paid sick leave will ultimately improve overall public health, especially the health of low-income workers, and save taxpayers money. Low-income employees are less likely to have employer-provided health insurance and more likely to have health insurance subsidized by government. Any proposal that improves the health of low-income workers is beneficial for the taxpayers who are helping to pay for the health care bills of low-income workers.

Staff Editorial