Mandatory Paid Sick Leave: The Heritage Foundation 2009 Labor Boot Camp
What Is Mandatory Paid Sick
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires companies with
more than 50 workers to provide eligible employees with up to 12
weeks of unpaid leave a year when they or an immediate family
member have a serious health condition or after the birth or
adoption of a child.
- Employers must reinstate the worker at the end of the leave and
may not discipline or fire employees taking FMLA leave.
- The Healthy Families Act (HFA) and similar legislation before
Congress would require employers to provide employees with paid
sick leave benefits. The HFA would require employers to provide at
least seven days of paid sick leave.
- The vast majority (86 percent) of full-time workers are already
provided paid leave, which they can use should they fall ill.
- The Healthy Families Act would not increase workers' total
compensation. Companies respond to mandated benefits by reducing
cash wages. Mandatory sick leave requires workers to take less of
their compensation as cash wages and more as time off, whether they
want to or not.
- By requiring employers to provide paid sick leave, preventing
them from challenging a suspect certification, and preventing them
from disciplining employees who abuse leave, the HFA would
encourage irresponsible employees to game the system and dump tasks
on their co-workers while still receiving full pay.
- This harms both co-workers and customers:
- When a worker takes intermittent leave or takes off work
without providing advance notice, employers may not be able to find
a replacement worker in time. Instead, two-thirds of employers
respond by reassigning the absent worker's tasks to the
conscientious employees still working. Workers who misuse sick
leave thus force responsible co-workers to cope with a heavier
- Sometimes, however, jobs cannot be reassigned and replacements
cannot be found on short notice. In these cases, the job goes
undone--to the detriment of customers. For example, in just one
month, intermittent FMLA leave use forced one Verizon office to
leave over 8,900 customer calls unanswered.
- If Congress makes paid sick leave mandatory, workers total
compensation will not rise. Companies respond to higher benefit
costs by reducing workers' pay by approximately the cost of
providing the benefit. Companies will spend more on leave benefits
and less on wages.
- Mandated benefits have many of the same labor market effects as
raising taxes on workers. Therefore, Congress should not raise
taxes on workers during the middle of a steep economic
- Abuse of the leave granted by HFA would have a detrimental
effect on productivity, thereby increasing the cost of business
while decreasing incentive for capital investment.
James Sherk is Bradley
Fellow in Labor Policy in the Center for Data Analysis at The