The Los Angeles Times recently ran a series of articles about how cutbacks in sick pay were leaving unhealthy employees stuck in the workplace. One article lamented the reduction or elimination of paid sick days. This has a great impact on low-wage earners. It also protested the collapsing of sick pay and vacation pay into what’s known as “paid time off.”
Here are some ways of looking at the situation that these articles didn’t discuss:
- Most employees get sick because they don’t take care of themselves. It’s their responsibility to take care of themselves — not the employers.
- Most sick days are abused and generate little “white lies.” According to CCH, less than one-third of all sick days taken are for people who are truly sick!
- According to another L.A. Times article, the average worker takes off 3.9 days per year for their own illness and 1.3 days to care for ill family members. It would seem fair for an employer to allow an employee five sick days, or to add those five sick days to a vacation schedule. I’m not sure why an employer would be obligated to do otherwise (some employers cited give weeks of sick leave and allow full accumulation).
- Many employee support groups have successfully begun legislating for mandated sick pay benefits. This is but one way to get around minimum wage requirements.
Of course, employers lament they only have so many choices in an ever-tightening economy. They can cut or eliminate healthcare costs, sick pay, salaries or job positions — or just go out of business. Not surprisingly, some employers still have well-run businesses and remain generous with their benefits and employee perks.
There are garment manufacturers paying above minimum wage and offering healthcare coverage and vacations. There are employers who allow an incredible amount of flexibility so long as employees are accountable and get their jobs done. So, in the end, it shouldn’t be legislation, but rather business competition that settles this issue.
The best companies to work for will be the ones that offer the greatest amount of employee benefit, while creating a never-ending stream of profits.
As a final note, one of the articles gave recommendations on how to call in sick. Without repeating their standards, here is what I’d recommend:
- Be clear about your attendance requirements.
- Show up on time unless you are, in fact, sick.
- Give as much advance notice as possible.
- If your boss won’t let you watch your kid’s championship soccer game, maybe you should consider another boss. If you think you’re somehow obligated to attend every one of your child’s soccer games, regardless of business demands, then maybe the company needs a new employee.
- Know that if you’re out for more than a few days you ought to show up with some kind of medical documentation. Don’t make an employer drag it out of you.
- Don’t show up sick and infect others. Even if you’ve already used up your vacation and sick days.
- Finally, see how you can mitigate your absence. Perhaps you can obtain permission to work a few days from home or make yourself available for emergency phone calls.