Thursday, May 20, 2021

No evidence paid sick leaves kills jobs

Canada and the US are outliers in historically having no statutory paid sick leave. Alberta’s opposition party has proposed 10 days of leave as a pandemic response measure. This logic of this proposal is basically that paid sick leave would help some sick workers decide to stay home by providing security of employment, income, and benefits. Yesterday, Alberta’s premier called paid sick leave a “job killing” proposal.

A 2010 report by the World Health Organization (in the wake of H1N1) suggests that paid sick leave has benefits that far outweigh its costs in Europe. The benefits include:
  • Access promptly medical care and the opportunity to follow treatment recommendations 
  • Recuperate more quickly 
  • Reduce the health impact on day-to-day functioning 
  • Prevent more series illnesses from developing 
  • Reduce the spreading of diseases to the workplace and community (p.6).
The costs of paid sick leave are mooted to be greater costs (for the state or employers, depending upon the arrangement), loss of productivity, and the potential for abuse by workers (i.e., taking sick days when not sick).

The WHO report suggests European costs are relatively low (averaging just under 200 Euros per year per capita), and paid sick leave is associated with greater productivity.

A US study examined the effect of sick leave mandates in several US cities and states on the number of private sector jobs. These proposals see workers accrue sick leave over time (kind of like; vacation entitlements). The upshot is that there appears to be effectively no impact on jobs numbers (i.e., sick is not a job-killing policy).

A separate study focused on New York’s employer paid sick leave mandate (which extended sick leave to millions of employees) also suggests paid sick leave is no big deal. 
  • Most employers experienced no cost increases and those who did (14%), the majority reports <3% change. 
  • More than 91% of employers reported no reduction in hiring
  • 97% of employers indicated that they did not reduce hours 
  • 98% of employers reported virtually no abuse of sick leave and percentage of no-abuse reported was higher for small businesses. 
  • 96% reported either no decline or an increase in productivity.
Basically, modest statutory sick leave provisions are a significant public health boon and can be implemented at virtually no cost. There is no credible evidence I could find in a quick search that paid sick days are “job killing”.

Not providing sick leave, by contrast, is likely to increase in the spread of COVID (as workers come to work sick for fear of losing their jobs or not being able to pay their bills). In this way, Premier Kenney’s unwillingness to consider paid sick leave is a “worker killing” policy.

-- Bob Barnetson

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