Archives

Commentary

Stan Kimer[Editor’s note: Stan C. Kimer is a retired IBM executive and former President of the North Carolina Council of Churches. He now runs a firm which offers consulting services around diversity management and training, and talent/career development. This is the fourth installment in a series of posts he is authoring for The Progressive Pulse on engaging the faith and business communities on the issue of workers’ rights. You can read the previous installments by clicking here, here and here.]

Having started this series in late April on the importance of engaging both the business and the faith/religious communities in promoting workers’ rights, I am now alternating each post between the business community and faith community connection. This month I write about one of the key workers’ rights that businesses ought to support: paid sick leave.

First, a personal story. A few years ago, when I took a weekend trip out of town, I enjoyed a large breakfast in the hotel restaurant. My server was sniffling and sneezing, obviously not feeling very well. I engaged her in conversation and she shared that as a single mother, she could not take the time off despite her cold. She had a choice between working sick (which admittedly is not good for her customers who could catch her cold) or not having the cash to pay that month’s rent and buy food. What a sad situation for a hard working American to be placed in!

Here are some startling facts published by the North Carolina Justice Center:

  • Though almost everyone gets sick a few times per year, 1.2 million or almost 40% of North Carolina workers have no earned paid sick leave.
  • And those who need it most, low wage earners, disproportionately do not have paid sick leave. 60% of those earning below $20,000 per year do not have access to paid sick leave.
  • Children with parents who have paid sick leave to stay home with them recover quicker from their illnesses and return to school faster.

The financial case is also strong for businesses. A recent study from the National Partnership for Women and Families showed that companies that provide paid sick leave reported fewer occupational injuries, which more than offset the $255 cost per year per employee of providing the paid leave. And when employers provide paid sick leave, this earns higher employee engagement and commitment, resulting in less turnover. As a career development consultant, I often present that the cost of recruiting and “onboarding” a new employee can run from 75% – 125% of one year’s salary, so providing a key benefit to prevent employee departure is an excellent business investment.

So as with other workers benefits that I will write about in upcoming blogs, providing employees with earned paid sick leave is a win-win-win: good for the business, good for the employee and good for the customers.

And to conclude my story, despite her being under the weather, my breakfast server that morning in addition to bringing this key issue to my attention, did provide great service, and I tipped her about double the going rate since I knew it could make a difference in her life.

Women and the Economy

Support for Paid family leave advanced in the U.S. Senate yesterday, as lawmakers heard testimony on its benefits in a key Children and Families Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill.

During the hearing—which was requested by U.S. Senator Kay Hagan—North Carolina business owners, advocates, and representatives of working families made the case for why paid family medical leave policies benefit both employees and businesses. Such programs allow workers to recover from a serious illness or care for a sick loved one or new child without risking their job or the income they need. The hearing renewed a call for a universal family and medical leave insurance program that doesn’t shoulder all the burden of cost on employers.

Currently the Family and Medical Leave Act is the only federal law designed to help working people succeed both as providers and caregivers. It leaves out 40 percent of the workforce and guarantees only unpaid leave, which millions cannot afford. Only 12 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, and less than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer-provided temporary disability program. This means millions of workers who develop serious health conditions, have seriously ill family members or become parents are forced to choose between providing care or having the income they need to cover basic expenses.

In North Carolina, 77 percent of mothers with children under 18 work, and 44 percent of workers have no access to paid sick days, let alone paid family medical leave. Low-income workers have it even worse off and are often given no flexibility in their work schedules at all.

Two North Carolinians testified at the hearing. Jeannine Sato is a resident of Durham, NC and member of NC MomsRising. Sato’s previous employer denied her extended leave after the birth of her first child. She said:

We are human – to pretend that people don’t get sick and that they don’t give birth just doesn’t make sense….Families should have the opportunity to care for their loved ones without the risk of losing their jobs or falling into poverty…. America needs to step up and join the rest of the industrialized world in offering paid family leave in order to be competitive and humane.

Read More