August 25, 2008
Will we ever see mandatory paid sick days for all workers?
Last month I wrote a post about how the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee paid vacation days. I'm guessing you've also heard that our country's family-friendly workplace policies are sorely lacking compared with those offered by, well, every other nation in the developed world. (Example: Out of 173 countries surveyed in a Harvard and McGill University study, the U.S. was one of just five that didn't mandate paid maternity leave; the other four are Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea.)
But our nation's "work till you drop" mentality doesn't stop there. According to grassroots organizers MomsRising.org, 48 percent of U.S. workers in the private sector and 80 percent of lower-wage workers don't receive paid sick days. Not even if their kids are sick. (In case you were wondering, 145 other countries do offer this benefit.)
That's why I was thrilled to see last week's AP report about how 12 states have recently proposed legislation that would mandate paid sick leave for all U.S. workers. This is big considering that 46 million employees in this country don't get paid when they have to call in sick.
I know some small businesses argue that they can't afford to pay for this. That's why your friends who work at private sector companies with less than 50 employees aren't subject to FMLA rules.
But I have a hard time believing this is as black and white as some bean counters make it sound and that there's no way to compromise. What about floating days off -- including sick days -- instead of company-mandated holidays? (I, for one, don't celebrate Christmas and would be happy to work December 24 and 25 -- so quiet! so productive!) Or how about allowing workers to build up comp time for extra hours worked, which they can draw from at a later date if sick? What about telecommuting privileges for those whose jobs can be performed from home so that someone with the flu doesn't have to share it with the rest of the office?
If you own or work for a small business, I'd love to hear how your company handles paid sick days and what you think of such legislation.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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