Paid Sick Leave Can Pay Off For Employers

Posted on Friday, June 21, 2019

Although it may seem counterintuitive, it may make sense to pay workers not to come in.

That's the gist of one study conducted by U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Their researchers compiled survey data from nearly 40,000 private sector employees. The results validated earlier findings – Workers with paid sick time are less likely to suffer non-fatal injuries on the job, recover faster, and have less of a problem with "presenteeism,"

"Access to paid sick leave might reduce the pressure to work while sick out of fear of losing income," stated researcher Abay Asfaw in the press release accompanying the study. "Paid sick leave also enables workers to care for loved ones and can help prevent the spread of contagious diseases. Employers may benefit from improved productivity if paid sick leave helps reduce absenteeism, or unscheduled leave, and "presenteeism," or the problem of sick workers continuing to work while not fully productive."

Paid sick leave provided the most substantial benefits for industries like social work, health care, manufacturing and agriculture – where fewer workers have desk jobs.


Other findings in the study include:

1. Paid sick leave supplied to health care workers reduces the risk of non-fatal workplace injuries by 18 percent.

2. Paid sick leave supplied to construction workers reduces the risk of non-fatal workplace injuries by 21 percent.

In addition to lowering the cost of employee injury, paid sick leave can decrease presenteeism; that is, the tendency of sick, fatigued or distracted workers to feel the need to come into work even though they are less productive than they otherwise would be.

Employers may also find savings in the form of:

Lower Workers' Compensation insurance claims
Reduction in Workers' Compensation insurance premiums
Medical insurance premium reductions (or less-than-anticipated increases)
Increase in worker productivity and morale
Decreased turnover costs, since stronger benefits like paid sick leave makes workers less likely to leave the company.

Despite these findings, 43 percent of workers surveyed reported not having access to paid sick leave from their employers. Federal law dictates that certain employers grant leave upon request to injured or ill employees or to care for injured or ill family members through the Family and Medical Leave Act. However, this does not have to be paid nor does it apply to smaller employers.

Food Service Industry Issues

The food service industry involves some unique issues, since the potential for communicable disease transmission is high, as it is in health care – but the food service industry has a high percentage of workers working without any kind of significant benefits package whatsoever.

One survey of Miami, Florida-area food service workers found the admittance of at least 50 percent of the workers handling food on the job while they were sick. They even kept working while they were coughing and sneezing and obviously presented an elevated risk of disease transmission to customers and fellow staffers.


10 percent reported infecting another worker or more
20 percent reported getting sicker because they went to work
63 percent reported health insurance was unavailable
46 percent reported not seeing a doctor

However, less than 10 percent of these workers reported access to paid sick leave at time of sickness.

To underscore the point, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health concluded that mandatory employer sick leave may have avoided millions of cases of the infamous H1N1 virus.


Another survey by the Institute for Women's Policy Research on the effect of mandatory sick leave policies in San Francisco concluded that more than 85 percent of employers reported no reduction in profitability due to offering paid sick leave. The bottom line is, while paying for sick leave certainly does have a dollar cost, these indications are that the cost is more than offset by the many benefits of paid sick leave in the long run.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in Dulin, Ward & DeWald’s blog is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice on any subject matter. Before taking any action based on this information, we strongly encourage you to consult competent legal, accounting or other professional advice about your specific situation. Questions on blog posts may be submitted to your DWD representative.

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