Paid Sick Leave

I’m big on early retirement and being able to spend your time as you see fit, to not be restricted by an employer. This is a long-term goal for me and one that will take many years of discipline and budgeting (probably a little luck too), but it is one that I am striving for. One of the reasons for that being one of my goals is due to the vacation policy (or lack thereof) here in the United States. There is no mandatory minimum vacation policy in the United States and there is also currently no mandatory paid sick leave. My job is great and I’m very happy with my career path so far, but I do not want my job to define me as a person. This may be a little easier for those doing research, entering the field of medicine, etc. But for most of us it’s not quite possible through a standard office job. It’s crazy how we are expected to spend so much time at work, even when not busy, when there is a lot more to see and do out in the world. There is now a proposal being made that would introduce paid sick leave to federal employees, and also a push for it on a national level as well.

I did want to start off with a disclaimer that I am not bashing the United States or anything of that sort, and I fully understand there is a ton of opportunity and I know I am extremely lucky for that. Heck, this ruling wouldn’t even affect me as my current employer does in fact offer paid sick leave! I’m hoping that this can help those that aren’t in such a lucky position. When I worked in the food industry (not really fast food or a restaurant but a chain), many times we only had a certain amount of workers and it was frowned upon for calling out sick. And I was serving people food and drinks – these are the last people who should be working when they are sick!

As I had stated before My current job I am given “unlimited” sick days which is a great perk. And most of the time I actually don’t use my sick days, as luckily I haven’t gotten very sick in my time working there. What I do end up doing though, is I always work from home when I’m sick. I tell my boss I might not be as productive and sometimes I have gone back to bed, but I do get some work done and I don’t put others in my office at risk! I have seen people in my office come in sick and get praised for it “working through it” and that sort of thing. The only thing that was on my mind was – stay away from me! I have also seen the opposite where people were sent home as to not get others sick. I think it’s somewhat of an American thing of “toughing it out” but it also may be the corporate culture. It’s been shown that too many of us go to work when sick, though.

One of the arguments I have heard about paid sick leave is that companies will just take the value of your days out of the base salary. They assume that employees will use every sick day,  every year. This would most likely lead to employees ending up with less total compensation; unless they do happen to get sick. I think this is a credible argument which is unfortunate, but at the moment it is reality. I would like to think the people in charge of these decisions aren’t as cold-hearted as they are made out to be. I would hope that people’s health isn’t just considered a “business decision” at many companies.

Another argument is that companies would stop being competitive with vacation/sick/personal days. I don’t think that this is the case. Companies are already enticing prized talent with compensation packages, and that includes time off and benefits. The companies that are already on the “floor” of offering zero days will now offer sick leave. Companies will still compete for the best employees, and companies aren’t going to all of a sudden say,  “Well the minimum is 7 days, so now you only get 7 days!” If they do, another company will swoop in and offer that same worker 8 days off and a higher salary.

The last argument goes back to employers cutting costs at the expense of their  employees. They would cut back hours so that employees are not considered full-time and not qualify for sick leave. An example would be restaurant that initially has 5 full-time employees. They work the minimum of 30 hours a week to qualify for paid sick leave. Now they would phase out these full-time employees and bring in 7 part-time workers at 25 hours per week to replace them. Thenthey don’t have to offer any benefits or paid sick leave. I believe the solution here is to tie hours worked to “earning” sick days. The benchmark can be set at 40 hour a week person to get 7 days in a year.  But we can make it so that part-time worker would still “earn” 3.5 days just by working 20 hours a week. Even if you were only working 10 hours a week, you would qualify, just for less hours.

Sick leave is a tough issue, because you’d like to say to people to not work for employers that use such terrible business practices. In reality, many people are tied to these jobs and would much rather go in while they are sick then get fired or blacklisted. And you can’t blame them for that. I think a lot of it stems from the work, work, work mentality and our culture in general. I’m not advocating for us to become lazy though; hard work is extremely important. We also need time to recover so that we can perform our best at work and not get others sick at the same time.

How do you feel about the proposed mandatory paid sick leave? Does your area already have a local law enacting paid sick leave?

photo credit: JeepersMedia via photopin cc


  1. A job should never truly define a person and I fully agree with you on that statement. That being said, you should define you. A healthy you. Without health, dividend income, debt payment, early retirement, etc. mean nothing. You are one of the fortunate to have “unlimited” sick days. Too often as an American workforce we are discouraged to take those days off when many times we truly need to. From an employer perspective I don’t like to have any policy mandated upon me but I do maintain that an employer should provide best health practices for its workforce whatever that entails.

    1. I like your perspective on this issue, and health really is an important thing. If you don’t have that – you can’t enjoy the rest.

      I tend to agree with you on the fact I dislike mandated policies, but it seems in certain cases these mandates are becoming necessary. Many of the people in the food industry and retail business do not get sick days, yet they interact with hundreds of people a day.

      Maybe we can try to use education to push better policies into play, but it seems that this doesn’t work in many cases. But a happier, healthier workforce is more productive and helps prevent the spread of more sickness.

      There is also room for abuse, but I feel trust should be given to good employees and it should not be frowned upon to use a sick day when you are actually sick.

  2. I certainly don’t have the answer, but some sort of combination of paid sick days with the option to bonus those out for getting to work each day whether you are sick or hungover, etc. I would think the majority of people would fight that cough if they knew they were getting paid for it at the end of the year.

    1. Yeah, I know that some companies have that policy even with vacation days. If you don’t use the days you just get paid for them instead. I personally don’t think they are healthy policies but if someone doesn’t want to use their vacation time that’s their decision.

      Going in while sick is another thing though, as you always run the risk of getting others sick. It kind of touches upon the whole anti-vaccination stories going through the news right now but that’s a whole different story.

  3. I had unlimited sick days at my last corporate job here in the UK. Like you, I hardly ever used them and there was a culture there where everyone “muddled through” coming into work when they should really have been at home resting without infecting everyone else! I’m self employed now and I don’t get any paid sick days. However, I think that this is a small price to pay for something I feel is more important – freedom! 🙂 As an outsider, I think that mandatory sick pay can only be a good thing.

    1. Yeah, unless I’m not able to get out of bed I’m probably going to end up doing some sort work. Just being at home and taking it easy helps a lot for me but it does prevent others from catching whatever I have. I think the mandatory paid sick leave is a good idea in general, but if we continue to have the same attitude towards sick days it might not get results!

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