Paid Sick-Leave Laws Are Contagious


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As an employer, it is only a matter of time before a paid sick-leave law that affects your company takes effect, a panel of payroll professionals said May 18.

The popularity of paid sick leave means it is likely the paid sick-leave law trend will continue on the state, local and, possibly, the federal level, said Beth Baerman, communications director for Attendance on Demand Inc.

Depending on the poll, 70 to 88 percent of U.S. adults support paid sick leave, Baerman said.  “If you’re looking at it from a political movement, it’s rare that politicians get that kind of support on anything,” she said.

Eighty-two percent of management and professional workers receive paid sick leave, while 40 percent of service workers do, Baerman said. The disparity between high-wage and low-wage worker access to sick leave is one reason the measures are so popular, she said. “For a lot of folks, this a fairness issue,” she said.

Public health is another reason paid sick-leave measures get public support, Baerman sad. Several recent cases at chain restaurants of sick employees spreading germs to customers may be reasons that paid sick-leave laws are beneficial to the public, she said.

Although 40 percent of service workers receive paid sick leave, the number is closer to 20 percent for day care and restaurant workers, Baerman said.

Even if a jurisdiction does not have paid sick-leave requirements in place, payroll professionals should monitor federal, state and municipal governments for future legislation, said Lia Coniglio, a manager at the American Payroll Association.

Measures may be reintroduced and modified several times before they pass, Coniglio said.  A paid sick-leave law in Connecticut failed in the legislature three times before passing in 2011.  A measure in Philadelphia was introduced in 2011 and 2013 before it was approved in 2015.

Just because a measure is defeated, does not mean a jurisdiction may not pass paid sick-leave requirements at a later date, Coniglio said. Payroll professionals should be aware of measures that could affect them in the future, she said.

On the federal level, the Healthy Families Act, which would allow employees to earn up the seven days of paid sick leave a year, was reintroduced in March, said Laura Lough, a director at the American Payroll Association. The bill (S. 636, H.R. 1516) has been introduced every congressional session since 2011, she said.

“Is it going to pass this session? Probably not, but it will be in front of congress again and again and again,” Baerman said at the annual American Payroll Association Congress in Orlando, Fla. “It’s likely to impact you if not now, then in the future.”

“We do have a president whose main objective, or one of his main objectives, is to deregulate business,” Baerman said of President Donald Trump. “On the other hand, his daughter Ivanka’s family policies—paid maternity leave, paid sick leave—are very important to her. It’s always better to be prepared.”

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