Paid sick days save companies money in long run

Re: “The fix is on D.C. sick leave audit,” Sept. 30

The Employment Policies Institute’s Michael Saltsman makes several false assumptions when he questions the validity of research on paid sick days by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

He incorrectly states that the San Francisco paid sick leave law resulted in job loss. But our analysis found that in the year following implementation, San Francisco experienced stronger employment growth than all surrounding counties but San Mateo, and that employment growth increased year-over-year for the fourth quarter. Two in three businesses in San Francisco support the paid sick leave law, which, unlike D.C.’s, includes tipped and restaurant workers.

Other researchers have found that paid sick leave reduces turnover, which in turn reduces costs. Government statistics show the average use of sick leave — 3.14 days per year for those with paid sick days — is much lower than many businesses fear. Our detailed estimates find that the savings outweigh the costs.

Saltsman wrote that “progressive activists have never much cared for the laws of economics,” but economic research indicates that lack of paid sick days costs us all through increased health care costs due to deferred doctors’ visits. Our recent analysis found that a national paid sick day policy could translate to $1 billion in savings.

We also estimated that in 2009, sick employees may have infected up to 7 million co-workers with the H1N1 virus. Recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Queen’s University in Canada indicate that sick employees with no leave are also more accident-prone and less productive.

Because the American economy depends on healthy workers, paid sick leave is important to everyone. Legislation requiring it should not be blocked based on unfounded assumptions that businesses will suffer.

Heidi Hartmann

President,Institute for Women’s Policy Research