Paid sick days — it sounds like a good idea for employees, but it's also good for businesses. Healthy workers are essential to a strong economy and to business success. When workers are provided with paid sick time, they demonstrate increased job satisfaction, commitment and morale. Their employers reap the benefits of high performance and productivity.
New Hampshire lawmakers are now considering HB 662, which would make it mandatory for businesses with 15 or more employees to offer three paid sick days. This is an amendment to the original bill which asked for five days in companies with 10 or more employees. Both full and part-time employees would have the opportunity to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. The bill also states that paid sick time can be used to care for sick family members.
The N.H. Women's Lobby and Alliance partnered with the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) to estimate the costs and benefits of the proposed law, using government-collected data, peer-reviewed research literature and a thoroughly vetted methodology. While this research is based on the original bill, the benefits stated are applicable to the amended bill as well. According to IWPR's research, nearly half of New Hampshire workers will benefit from paid sick days. Currently, 215,800 New Hampshire private-sector workers lack paid sick days, or 42 percent of the work force. Additionally, 128,400 New Hampshire workers (24 percent of the private-sector work force) have no paid leave or vacation and will receive new paid sick days under the bill.
The benefits of paid sick days for New Hampshire workers will substantially outweigh costs. New Hampshire employers will pay $46 million annually for wages, payroll taxes and payroll-based employment benefits, and administrative expenses. But benefits for employers will total $76 million annually, largely from reduced costs of turnover — workers who have paid sick days are less likely to look for a different job. The average weekly cost of the policy for covered workers will be $6.92 per worker, or about 20 cents per hour worked. Savings will be $11.39 per worker, for a net savings of $4.47 per worker per week.
Improved public health for New Hampshire employees will save millions of dollars in other ways as well. Paid sick days reduce the spread of serious contagious diseases such as the flu and norovirus. Workers will save $1.5 million annually on flu-related costs and short-term nursing home stays for relatives. Obtaining timely medical care will improve care and treatment, reduce emergency room visits and reduce costs for providers and patients.
Workers who come in sick to their jobs cost our national economy $180 billion annually in lost productivity. And, sick workers are more likely to have an accident on the job, incurring additional costs for the employer. New Hampshire employers statewide will save $30 million annually as a result of HB 662.
The demographics of the U.S. workplace have witnessed a dramatic change over recent decades. We live in a time where 70 percent of households have all adults in the labor force. It is important to adopt family responsive policies such as paid sick days before the work-family conflicts experienced by an escalating number of Granite Staters reach crisis level. When it comes to business, it's all about the bottom line, and research shows that paid sick days for New Hampshire's employees will provide a great return on investment.
Originally published at: http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20091122-OPINION-911220329