Friday, January 16, 2015

The Future of Paid Sick Leave

Employee-friendly policies and laws were the subject of both employee protests and legislative action last year.  This week, the Obama Administration has launched an effort to increase the number of American workers who have paid sick leave.  The administration unveiled a new benefit for all federal employees and urged private-sector employers to follow suit. 
 
Currently, only 61 percent of workers enjoy paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Among the world’s 22 industrialized countries, the United States is the only one that does not mandate paid leave for employees.  The Obama Administration would like to change that through the Healthy Families Act, which would require employers to grant employees one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.  The Act has been before Congress in some form since 2005, and most commentators think it has little chance of success under the Republican-controlled Congress.  This reality has not deterred President Obama or his Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, who recently published an impassioned post on the Administration's efforts.
 
Employers who provide paid sick leave have seen real returns, including lower turnover rates, reduced recruitment and training costs, less absenteeism, and a higher level of productivity.  These results are among the reasons the White House is focused on providing federal employees with the benefit.
 
What does this push for paid leave mean for private sector employers?  Currently, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and many municipalities require at least some employers to provide paid sick leave, and other states are considering legislation.  Employers in those jurisdictions should stay current on the law and review their policies to ensure they are providing the proper benefits.  Employers not yet affected by laws mandating paid sick leave should consider offering it voluntarily, given the continuing war for talent.  Paid sick leave, among other benefits, is likely to be expected by competitive candidates.  Reviewing a benefits survey covering their industry and location is a way for employers to compare their offerings to those of similar businesses.  Employers may conclude that, as the Department of Labor says, “paid leave is good for business.”
 
Posted by: Kate Bischoff