Human Systems and policies

Paid Sick Leave – An Ideal, and Potentially Complicated, Policy

If it was affordable, I believe that most employers would offer paid sick leave because of the long-term benefits. The up-front cost will ultimately pay off, although the benefits can be hard to quantify. Currently, eleven states and multiple jurisdictions require paid sick leave, but the policies vary a great deal and can often conflict with each other.

Why should you offer paid sick leave?

In an ideal world, every company would offer paid sick leave. There are multiple benefits to the employee and company, as well as societal benefits. According to research in Health Affairs (2016), employees without paid sick leave were 3 times more likely to forgo medical treatment for themselves, as compared to those with sick leave, and 1.6 times more likely to forgo care for their family. As you might guess, low-income workers without paid sick leave are at highest risk for foregoing necessary medical care for themselves and their family. On the surface, this may seem like an individual health problem, but it’s much more than that. Paid sick leave has very important long-term benefits for the organization, including:

  • Overall, long-term reduction of sick days, thus increasing overall company productivity. Individuals who get needed medical care for themselves and family members will maintain better health in the long run, thus being more consistent and effective contributors to the organization.
  • Reduced employee turnover, increasing organizational sustainability and productivity. Offering paid sick leave, aside from the obvious benefit to the employee, also sends the message that the organization values and cares for their employees. More than anything else, the belief that the organization respects and cares for their well-being keeps turnover low.
  • Reduction of the spread of infection. Employees who stay home when they have a communicable disease will not give it to other employees. One employee that stays home for a few days is so much better than 10 employees who have to stay home for a few days.

If your organization is able to invest in paid sick leave, the investment will pay off in terms of company culture, reduced turnover, and increased productivity and efficiency. Of course, these benefits are long-term and can be difficult to quantify (although it is possible).

When is Paid Sick Leave Required?

Currently, the United States is one of the few countries that does not require businesses to offer paid sick leave. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, eleven states (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington) and Washington, D.C. You can find specific information on your state and/or jurisdiction on Workplace Fairness, a non-profit organization that offers accessible information about employees’ rights. If you are interested in learning more about requirements in your area or how to implement sick leave, it is strongly suggested that you consult a lawyer who specializes in HR law, but you can access a brief overview of general requirements at XpertHR.

Learn More

This article is part of the Human Systems Organizational Health Leadership Principle series: 15 principles that relate to the overall health of your organization. Other Human Systems Leadership Principles are contained in the Change Management, Community Embedding, Mutual Empowerment, and Ethics categories.

HS Leadership Principle #9: Has policies that allow employees to care for themselves and friends and family when necessary.

This article was a very general overview of the benefits and complications involved in a particular policy related to Human Systems’ organizational leadership principles. While Human Systems cannot advise you on the specifics of adhering to legal HR requirements, we can always point you in the right direction when it comes to policy and processes that improve organizational culture and reduce turnover and burnout. Contact Human Systems to learn more.

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