Paid Sick Days Help Employees and Businesses, Say Experts, Local Workers
April 2, 2009
Workers at the Lawrence Polartec factory today protested the company’s policy of not offering its employees paid sick days and calling on the Massachusetts legislature to pass paid sick days legislation. When Polartec bought the factory from the locally-owned Malden Mills, the national company announced that it would not follow its predecessor’s policy of providing paid sick days.
This lack of paid sick days has proven challenging for workers across the state, including in Lawrence. Yahaira German, a Lawrence 25-year-old single mother of four, has been working at Polartec since 2006. Without paid sick days, Yahaira has to forgo work hours and pay when she has to take her children to their doctor’s appointments or stay home when she or her children are sick. Some months, it is nearly impossible for her to pay her bills.
An Act to Establish Paid Sick Days, currently pending in the Massachusetts legislature, would require employers to allow their workers to earn up to seven paid sick days annually.
MomsRising.org, an on-line and on-the ground advocacy group for moms and everyone who has a mom, is a part of the coalition pushing for this reform. “Paid sick days are win-win,” said MomsRising.org Executive Director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. “Employers reduce costs and have less turnover, and workers have the peace of mind of knowing that they can take a sick day without sacrificing pay or losing their jobs.”
A 2007 study by the Society for Human Resources Management found that presenteeism (employees coming to work when sick) costs employers about $180 billion annually. This is significantly higher than absenteeism, which costs about $118 billion annually.
The coalition advocating for Paid Sick Days includes MomsRising.org, labor groups, Jobs with Justice, Greater Boston Legal Services, the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, and many other health and nonprofit organizations.
An Act to Establish Paid Sick Days would allow part-time and full-time workers to accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked up to seven total paid sick days a year. Workers would be able to use paid sick days for diagnosis or treatment of their own or a family member’s health condition and for preventive care. Victims of domestic violence would also be able to use paid sick days to address their medical, psychological and legal needs. Currently, almost half (47 percent) of Massachusetts workers do not have even a single guaranteed paid sick day.