Portland Business Journal: Local economists back mandatory sick leave
Author: Ben Jacklet
Posted: February 5, 2013

Read the original article in the Portland Business Journal here.

Portland State University economics professor Mary King and 13 co-signatories have written a letter of support for the city’s mandatory sick leave proposal.

Introduced as testimony as part of a raucous public hearing yesterday, the letter argues that the costs of extending paid sick days to employees are quite small, especially when compared to the benefits of reduced turnover, increased productivity and better workplace health.

The mandatory sick leave issue has divided the business community in Portland.

King’s letter, which contains 19 footnotes, makes reference to studies conducted in the state of Connecticut and the City of San Francisco, where recent laws have required private employers to provide paid sick leave to all employees. According to these studies, the cost of mandatory sick leave to employers in Connecticut added up to less than .2 percent in annual sales, while in San Francisco six of seven employers said they experienced no negative impact from the sick leave law.

The letter also makes reference to the costs of “presenteeism,” the cost of employees coming to work while sick and infecting their co-workers. According to the Society of Human Resources Management, presenteeism costs employers about $180 billion per year nationally.

King argues that the United States is the only developed nation in the world that does not require employers to offer paid sick leave to workers, creating disproportionate hardship for low-income families. According to the Economic Policy Institute, employees who lack paid sick leave earn on average $10 per hour.

King’s 13 co-signatories all work at universities or colleges in Oregon or Washington.

The City Council does not plan to vote on the proposal until the end of February at the earliest.