The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released a cost-benefit analysis of allowing workers in Philadelphia to earn paid sick days. Their findings completely contradict the claims of anti-worker politicians and industry groups that a sick leave ordinance would hurt businesses – turns out the policy would actually save Philadelphia businesses money.
IWPR calculates that Philadelphia businesses could see a net annual savings of over $574,000 if the sick leave ordinance passes. Here’s how they get there:
- Cost: Providing sick days is equivalent to a $0.25 increase in hourly wages, or about $8.59 per week per employee. That part will cost about $44 million total. If you assume that covered workers who give birth and half their partners use all of their available sick days, that’s an additional $11 million. If you factor in the fact that sick workers are less productive even when they do come to work, meaning a current loss of about $4 million, the total cost to employers come out to about $51 million.
- Benefits to Employers: The anticipated savings of healthy workers, increased productivity, and reduced turnover is also equivalent to a wage savings of $0.25 per hour, or $8.69 per employee per week. That translates to about $52 million in savings for employers.
- Benefits to the Community: So instead of workers coming in while sick and potentially infecting coworkers, customers, and patients, they are staying home and getting better. Between reduced nursing home stays, reduced emergency room visits, decreased use of medical supplies, fewer people needing treatment for the flu and other diseases, improved public health, better economic security from stable employment, and reduced expenditures on public assistance programs, IWPR estimates a community savings of $24 million.
- What Can’t Be Fully Measured: Anecdotally, workplaces where workers can earn paid sick days aren’t just healthier. There is a respect between employers and employees that doesn’t arise when workers have to be deceitful about their illnesses or their need to take care of a sick child. Also, with reduced turnover comes more long-term, stable employment, which could mean more advancement opportunities and less need to constantly retrain new workers. Even if you can’t fully measure it, there’s a sense of pride, security, and responsibility that comes with long-term employment, versus getting work in fits and starts.
Opponents of the earned paid sick days ordinance (called “Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces” in Philadelphia) are running out of excuses. Will it impose unreasonable regulation on businesses? No, in fact they see a net gain. Will workers take advantage of their sick days and skip work? No, in fact only about ten percent of workers with paid sick days use all of it, and employees with 7 sick days use an average of only 2.3 every year. Are employers unfairly and unnecessarily threatening the health of customers and patients by creating a situation where workers need to come in while sick? Absolutely – and the more data we see, the clearer the injustice of allowing this to continue.