Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mandatory Sick Leave -- Paying Employees To Do Nothing (Maybe You Already Do)

The day after our president suggests that government is the answer, I will suggest that in most cases, government is not the answer.  It's an obstacle, a burden, a cost.  Government should be limited.  People should be permitted to succeed or fail based on their industry and hard work. 

in 2009 George Miller, a Democrat from California, introduced legislation that would have required employers to pay employees up to five sick days if the employer sent the employee home due to a contagious illness. 

This week the Philadelphia City Council passed an ordinance requiring employers to pay sick employees to stay home.  The debate is also heating up in NYC, as the flu spreads across the nation. 

It's a matter of "fairness" argue those who seek sick leave benefits.  Of course the person asking for another's money will argue that the taking is done in the name of fairness.  Perhaps. 

But regardless of anyone's definition of fairness, there is the question of paying for it.  Who does?  The owner of the business?  Shareholders?  Other employees who are not sick?  Customers?  In the end, someone must work to pay the cost of those who don't work. 

I'm not sure what all of the answers are in the short run.  I understand that taking time off without pay may be a severe hardship to some families.  However, passing the costs of sick employees to other employees or to the business owner is not necessarily the answer. Eventually, the extra taxes the worker bears will catch up to us as a society.  Productivity and growth will slow, perhaps stop. 

Legislation is not the answer.  It burdens workers.  (Even owners are workers -- often the most hardest working workers.)  It costs money.  It is time-consuming and inefficient. 

In the long run, the answer is for employees to save for themselves and to prepare for a rainy day.  We should take the responsibility for our own conditions and work to improve them.  Many years ago my wife and I started a contingency fund.  We saved a small amount every payday.  After a couple of years, we needed that money when we faced circumstances beyond our control.  The savings paid our bills when a job did not.   

Some worker somewhere will be angry with this idea.  I understand that some people are in difficult circumstances, and will need help from others.  However, I think that most people are able to control their situations and weather five days of the flu and lack of pay.  The answer is personal responsibility and preparation. 

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