Guaranteeing Earned Sick Days Is the Right Choice for a Healthy Economy

December 1, 2017 by Christopher Meyer in Blog, Economic Opportunity, Health

Each time they get sick or need to care for a sick child, 750,000 working Marylanders are still forced to choose between their health and a day’s pay because they aren’t able to earn paid sick time at work. The Healthy Working Families Act, which the General Assembly passed during its 2017 session, would change that. The bill guarantees half a million workers the chance to earn paid sick and safe time, plus job-protected leave for hundreds of thousands more. However, a veto from Gov. Hogan has put these protections on hold. A new MDCEP report confirms what was already clear: Earned sick days are good for working families, public health, and our economy. When the legislature reconvenes in January, it should act quickly to make the Healthy Working Families Act law.

Guaranteeing paid sick days will mean a healthier state for all of us. One in four workers who currently lack this basic protection have jobs in food preparation or processing, food service, or health care. When they show up to work while sick, they put coworkers, customers, and the public at risk. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control link nearly half of restaurant-related outbreaks of foodborne illness to sick employees. Allowing workers the time to get much-needed rest or seek medical care demonstrably reduces the spread of infectious disease.

Earned sick days also reduce health care costs and generate savings for businesses. If you catch an illness from a coworker or an infected restaurant server, you won’t be as productive at work and may need to take a day off yourself. And if you also lack earned sick days, you may not be able to get to a doctor’s office during regular business hours. In these situations, many workers seek care at an emergency room, diverting health care resources and raising costs for everyone.

The additional stress of wondering whether they can afford to get sick also inspires many workers to look for new jobs sooner than they otherwise would, leading to higher recruiting and training costs for business. Taking into account improved productivity, reduced job turnover, and reduced spread of contagious disease, guaranteeing earned sick days would save Marylanders millions of dollars every year.

Finally, MDCEP’s original analysis shows that earned sick days are consistent with a strong, growing economy. MDCEP compared the job market in states and cities with earned sick days guarantees to the U.S. overall, looking at all jurisdictions for which at least one year of post-implementation data exist. Most states and cities that passed earned sick days had equivalent or better labor market performance during implementation than the United States overall.

Sick days chart 3

Gov. Hogan is now calling on the General Assembly to move backward by considering a new bill his administration recently released. This bill has many of the same flaws as the bill Gov. Hogan introduced during the 2017 session. It allows employers to impose unrealistic advance notice requirements, doesn’t require the state to take meaningful enforcement action, and takes existing protections away from workers in Montgomery County. Simply put, Gov. Hogan’s proposal is not an adequate solution. Rather than start over and produce a weaker bill, the legislature should take the final step and pass the Healthy Working Families Act.