Why Paid Sick Leave is a Good Thing

It’s the time of year where coughs and sneezes become part of the background noise in many workplaces. A lot of us drag ourselves to work when we are sick because we work at places that do not offer any kind of paid sick leave or out of fear we will fall behind. Employees who show up sick can easily spread illness, and we all know from experience that it can be hard to focus on work when we feel miserable.

Some states and cities require paid sick leave, which is a good step toward recognizing the value of taking a paid day off when ill. Even if you do not live in an area that requires it, paid sick leave is good for your business.

Working While Sick

One of the most important reasons an employee should take a sick day is preventing the illness from spreading to coworkers. Unfortunately, employees who do not have any kind of paid time off (PTO) or paid sick leave may be reluctant to take time off because they do not want to lose pay. This is especially hard during the holiday season when cold and flu are common, and many employees need all the money they can get.

Along with offering some form of paid sick leave, consider giving people the option to complete some work from home if their job allows it. Sometimes it is best for an employee to be at home because they are contagious, but they may not be so sick that they cannot get some work done. If there are reports and emails the employee can complete without being in the office, consider setting up a work-from-home arrangement for these employees whose illness is not severe enough that they cannot get any work done.

How Ill Employees Affect Customer Service

I have a number of friends who have worked in the restaurant industry, and, with the exception of those in management, it is not very common to see any kind of paid sick leave. Have you ever gone to a restaurant and ordered food from someone who is coughing and sneezing? Your first thought was probably, “Is this person going to cough near my meal and make me sick?” It’s not appetizing.

When it comes to our customers, we want our employees to be friendly and present. It can be quite a challenge for an employee with a bad cold to be these things. An ill employee makes a bad impression. The employee may spread their germs and make customers sick, and they also send the message that employee health and wellbeing are not top priorities at your business.

Paid Sick Leave is Good for Health & Morale

Any kind of paid time off can appear to be a loss for a business. After all, you are paying employees not to work. But we need to remember that time off is an investment in our employees. Time off is good for us. Whether it’s for vacation, a personal day or to recover from illness, we need that break from work. Rested employees are more productive employees.

When it comes to illness, confining ourselves is one of the easiest ways to prevent spread of the illness. Why then do some employers avoid offering a benefit that can keep their workplace healthy?

Providing adequate paid time off for illness and other reasons encourages a work-life balance for employees. It is an easy benefit to set up. Some employers choose to implement a PTO program, which gives employees the flexibility to use PTO for vacation, personal days or sick days. Requirements for how paid time off programs are administered vary by location, so be sure to check your state’s requirements for administering such a program. If you live in a state or city that requires paid sick leave, review the regulations to see how the law interacts with your existing PTO policy.

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Stephanie Hammerwold

Stephanie Hammerwold, is the founder and director of Pacific Reentry Career Services, a Southern California nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated women find and maintain employment. She also blogs on a variety of HR topics as the HR Hammer. When not volunteering for her nonprofit, Stephanie has a day job in HR at a tech startup in Irvine, CA.


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