I came across the following article recently regarding the push for paid sick leave here in New York City.
If enacted, NYC would follow a handful of other states or cities, such as San Francisco, Washington D.C., Milwaukee (which passed legislation and has yet to put it into effect), and most recently, Connecticut, in mandating sick leave.
Here are some statistics to consider:
- According to a Gallup study, unhealthy workers in the United States cost an estimated $153 billion in lost productivity due to absenteeism.
- The US Department of Labor released a report in August 2012 entitled ‘Access to and Use of Leave–2011’ (pdf here) and it highlights that while 90% of American workers have access to paid and unpaid leave, only 21% utilized it in a average week. The vast majority (56%) adjusted their work schedule or work location instead of using their leave time.
- In a 2010 National Study of the Changing Workforce (NSCW) report, employees used and average of two sick days in a three month time frame to care for themselves and less than one to care for a sick child. This is for groups in which their employer offered them at least five sick days a year off.
Paid Time Off (PTO) policies here in the United States suck. There, I said it. And I hope more people say it too. While there are legitimate concerns for businesses in implementing and maintaining a program, there has to be a an honest dialogue around this topic. As organizations ask employees to do more with less, there has to be programs in place to support people when they need it. If “people are our most important asset” then benefit programs (PTO and others) should reflect the company’s recognition and support of this. This is where Human Resources professionals (particular subject matter experts in the areas of total rewards programs) can be of great value. Their qualifications can help guide an organization to implementing programs that will support the needs of employees while preserving or increasing the business’ bottom line.
Employers’ fears surrounding cost (e.g., estimated cost to provide PTO and having every eligible employee utilize the maximum amount offered) may be an exaggeration. Employees, it seems, want flexibility more so than to be paid for being absent. And employers that are proactive in identifying and addressing employee health and wellness concerns may be able to reduce costs and preserve productivity outputs amongst employees.