Will swine flue make paid sick day legislation move?
Federal legislation to require employers to provide paid sick days has not gotten far. But maybe swing flu will help.
Today Steven Greenhouse has a piece on it in the NYT business section, and the National Labor Committee has a related report ("Wal-Mart's Sick Leave Policy Risks Spreading Swine Flu").
Some employers are left giving pretty sad answers. From NYT:
White Castle does not provide paid sick days, he acknowledged, but he said that workers who stayed home sick would not suffer lost pay because they could work extra hours after recovering.Oh, problem solved!
But seriously. Not giving people paid sick days means many of them will work while they have swine flu. Employers don't want to admit it, but it's true. And part of the problem is that the true costs of this situation are somewhat externalized from the company. In other words, when an infected employee comes to work, that has some costs for the company (like infecting other workers, lower productivity). But some of the cost goes outside the company (infecting customers).
I don't know if it's at all possible to try to do a cost-benefit on this kind of stuff, or that we should do it even if it is, or that if we do it, the externalized costs are what would push the cost higher than the benefits. My point is more just that employers who don't give paid sick days are not only harming their own workers, but the general public, and legislators (be this state or federal) ought to recognize that.
Update: Wonkroom has a post just up, "Chamber Scoffs At Lack Of Paid Sick Leave: ‘The Problem Is Not Nearly As Great As Some People Say.’" They point to some of the research there is on the economic calculations.