Here’s why Nutter should sign sick leave bill

    Editor’s note: Mayor Michael Nutter vetoed the bill Tuesday afternoon.

    Philadelphia is on the precipice of joining the growing list of communities that believe it isn’t right for workers to have to choose between their health and their job.

    This month, the Philadelphia City Council voted to pass paid sick days bill that will allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days per year.

    Mayor Nutter should sign this bill immediately.

    Right now, 210,000 Philadelphians do not have paid sick days, creating public health risks for the community and jeopardizing families’ economic security. This legislation is good for the people of Philadelphia—workers and their families, co-workers, and customers—as well as for the Philadelphia economy.

    Some have said that while being able to stay home with the flu might be good for families, the economy will suffer because of this kind of legislation.

    The National Review reports that employees will see lower pay, and that employers will “inevitably seek ways to minimize and make up for these new costs, by consolidating jobs, reducing worker hours, or outsourcing.”

    This couldn’t be further from the truth. The benefits of paid sick days to employers are well-documented. Sick workers lower productivity because they not only perform at less than their best, but when they pass an illness on, this productivity loss snowballs—sometimes disastrously.

    Showing up work sick is “presenteeism.” The Society for Human Resources Management estimates that the cost of reduced productivity by employees who show up to work sick is $180 million annually.

    Evidence counters worries

    Other localities require employers to provide paid sick days and found it was good for business. San Francisco, for example, implemented this policy in 2007, and by 2011 PricewaterhouseCoopers declared that San Francisco was one of the top 5 cities “of opportunity” in the world. In San Francisco, even though many said it would be a job-killer, this hasn’t been the case.

    Researchers have found that after implementation in San Francisco a survey of “over 700 employers and nearly 1,200 employees found that two-thirds of employers support the law.”

    Research on the implementation of newly passed paid sick days legislation in Connecticut estimates that the cost to a company of providing paid sick days amounts to less than .2 percent of sales. That’s certainly not enough to be a job killer.

    Showing up to work sick isn’t good for the bottom line and it’s not good for families. Most families do not have someone at home full-time who can care for a sick child, so what’s a parent to do when a child has the flu if they don’t have paid sick days?

    Don’t touch my sandwich!

    We all know that if you’re sick, you’re supposed to stay home. When you go to work sick, you can pass on what ails to your co-workers. When you send your children to school sick, they can pass on the virus to the other children.

    Those of us lucky enough to have paid sick days may be appalled that a deli worker with a nasty cold goes to work sick and then makes us a sandwich that could be passing that sickness on. We may think, “Why didn’t she just stay home? It’s rude to make food for other when you’re sick.”

    Yet, most food service workers nationwide – more than three quarters – do not have paid sick days. This means these workers often have to choose between their job and their health—or their children’s health. That’s not right. And, let’s not fool ourselves: Having sick workers at work is not good for our economy.

    The United States remains one of the richest countries on the planet. Yet, we are the only developed country that does not already require employers nationwide to provide paid sick days. Access to paid sick days is the law in at least 145 countries.

    The Philadelphia City Council has taken the first step to ensuring that this is the case for all workers, now the mayor needs to step up and do his part.

    Heather Boushey is an economist at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank based in Washington, D.C.

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