As paid sick leave laws continue to gain traction across the United States, a recent report finds such policies to be a win-win for workers and their employers.
For its report, the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) examined over a dozen scholarly and policy research articles covering the health, economic and social benefits of paid sick time.
"Seeing the research brought together, from a range of disciplines, makes a striking case for universal access to paid sick days as a low-cost strategy for improving health and economic well-being," IWPR Vice President and Executive Director Barbara Gault said in a statement.
The think tank's analysis came shortly Chicago passed legislation mandating earned paid sick time and as commissioners in Cook County are set to vote on similar policy on October 5. Chicago was the 34th jurisdiction in the United States to guarantee paid sick days.
Critics say mandatory paid sick leave is a "job killer" and a particular burden for small businesses.
But IWPR's report cited studies showing paid sick leave policies reduced contagion in the workplace, improved worker productivity, decreased occupational injuries and lowered employee turnover. In addition, paid sick time laws have been easily implemented, and research suggests "that abuse of paid sick days is rare."
Moreover, existing paid sick leave policies have resulted in minimal costs to employers.
From the report:
Costs to employers of providing paid sick days have been modest. In Seattle, evaluations found that the cost of providing paid sick leave in 2013 was only about 0.4 percent of total firm revenue for the year.
In Connecticut, nearly half of 228 employers surveyed in 2013, a year and a half after the state's paid sick days law's implementation, reported having no increased overall cost, and 19.1 percent of employers reported an increased cost of less than 2 percent.
In San Francisco, the paid sick leave ordinance created additional costs for a relatively small share of employers. Six out of seven employers reported no adverse effects on profitability.
The report also looked at the issue of job growth:
In contrast to messaging communicated by big business lobbyists prior to the laws' passage, both Seattle and San Francisco saw positive job growth in the period after their laws took effect, and this job growth was much higher than in the surrounding areas for both cities. San Francisco's growth in employment exceeded the average employment growth of surrounding counties after the paid sick days law was passed. In the 10 months after the adoption of Seattle's Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance, King County (where Seattle is located) did not see negative economic impacts; rather, the county saw sustained job growth and reduced unemployment rates.
But critics of paid sick leave legislation say it could put a financial burden on small businesses by way of administrative costs to track workers' earned time.
There were 51 million workers without paid sick days as of 2014, according to the report.
Workers with paid sick leave have reported greater job stability and economic well-being, a better work-life balance and improved labor force attachment for caregivers, among other benefits.
Paid sick leave policies have public health benefits as well, including increased use of preventative care, faster treatment for illness and reduced use of hospital emergency departments, according to the report.
"Research has documented many benefits of paid sick days policies for workers, businesses and communities as a whole," IWPR researchers wrote. "These benefits would multiply substantially if more workers gained access to paid sick days."