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Mandated Sick Days Could Harm Chicago Jobs

Posted on February 16, 2010

A new bill sponsored by a Chicago state representative is getting backlash from a lot of small businesses and could cost Chicago jobs (click here).

State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, is sponsoring the Healthy Workplace Act, which would mandate that all employers allow sick days for every worker. If the new law passes, all workers would accumulate medical leave at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, starting at the date of hire, for a maximum of seven paid sick days per year.

Medill Reports quotes a person in an article about the workplace act saying, “Anytime government has this one-size-fits-all mandate, it really hurts small employers,” said Kim Clark Maisch, Illinois state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “These types of policies are best negotiated between employers and employees.”

“Seven days is unheard of,” she said. “That’s a lot of time. Most small business owners can’t afford that, particularly right now.”

The synopsis of the act is as follows: Creates the Healthy Workplace Act. Requires an employer to provide an employee up to 7 sick days with pay during each 12-month period. Provides that an employee may use the sick days care for physical or mental illness, injury, medical condition, professional medical diagnosis or care, or a medical appointment of the employee or a family member. Contains provisions regarding: accrual; certification; notice; responsibilities of employers; unlawful practices; powers and duties of the Department of Labor; violations; penalties; civil liability; severability; and other matters.

Women Employed, an organization that seeks to improve the economic status of women and remove barriers to economic equity, fully supports the bill.

On their website they say, Two and a half million Illinois workers are forced to go to work sick because they don’t have a single paid sick day. The Healthy Workplace Act provides an essential and basic benefit to Illinois workers.

The proposed Healthy Workplace Act (HB 3665) will:

– Allow employees to earn up to 7 paid sick days per year, accrued hourly for every 30 hours worked.
– Provide leave: 1) for an employee’s own illness; 2) to care for the illness of an employee’s family member; or 3) for medical appointments.
– The Healthy Workplace Act is not only good for workers, but businesses also benefit.
– Workers return faster to full productivity because they regain their health faster.
– Ill workers do not infect others, which decreases absentee expenses.
– Reduces turnover and re-training costs.
– The Healthy Workplace Act also protects the public.
– Infections and disease are less likely to spread to co-workers.
– Customers and patients are protected when workers in food service and health settings can stay home when ill.

They say to urge your legislators to support healthy workers and workplaces by becoming a co-sponsor of the Healthy Workplace Act.

Melissa Josephs, director of equal opportunity policy for Women Employed, said exempting small businesses from the legislation is not an option.

“I think small employers would realize that they don’t want workers coming in sick so that they infect other co-workers,” Josephs said.

Advocates of the bill assert that it can actually save long-term business costs, largely due to reduced turnover. A study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research says employees are more likely to stay in a job when they receive paid sick days, reducing lost productivity and hiring costs.

But Maisch said the National Federation of Independent Business has an unreleased report, which she says predicts the bill will cause more than 30,000 job losses in Illinois, 45 percent of them in businesses with fewer than 100 employees.