Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Paid sick days under the FMLA? How legislation is made.

No, this is not a civics lesson on how Congress creates and enacts legislation.  It is an alert to employers about the potential for federal legislation arising from a "perfect storm" of the election, the severe flu season, and employer policies regarding sick days.  Time has an article addressing the national discussion over paid sick days which presents the positions of employees and employers.

Common sense dictates that if you are sick with the flu, you should stay home so you do not spread it in your work place. Yet, where employees have personal time off, employees are reluctant to use the days this early in the year. Employees who do not have paid sick days or the option to use other paid time off will go to work.   The debate has led to a movement to require employers to provide paid sick days.  The National Partnership for Women and Families has a national campaign for legislation to require paid sick days.  The website of Family Values at Work is urging action to obtain paid sick days.

Employers will be confronted with  the argument that paid sick days will actually save them money.  By having sick employees stay home and not cause more employees to become ill, employers will not lose money because fewer employees will become sick,  and productivity will not suffer.  Smaller employers will argue that in a struggling economy, they simply are not in a position to absorb an additional social initiative.

While there are only paid sick days requirements in San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Connecticut, the FMLA may will be viewed as the vehicle to require paid sick days.  After all, unpaid leave is required for eligible employees, so why not convert a few days into paid leave?  Paid sick days always do well in the polls, and those legislators who favor this type of intervention may decide to pursue it.  Realistically, with the continuing battle of the budget and spending, such an initative may be delayed.

 Are there ways to accomplish the goals of keeping sick workers at home without the resulting loss in pay?  There is simply not a one size fits all solution to this issue.  Communicating with employees and trying to find a reasonable and fair solution are the best approaches. Employers need to examine their own policies and needs to see what they can do without governmental help.

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