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AFL-CIO Says Mandatory Paid Sick Days Don't Cause Unemployment

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As Congress begins considering legislation that would guarantee workers up to seven paid sick days per year, a new study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), a nonpartisan think tank, finds that mandatory paid sick days do not lead to higher unemployment.

“Paid Sick Days Don’t Cause Unemployment” examines the connection between government-mandated paid sick days and the national rate of unemployment in 22 highly developed countries. Click here to read the report.

Says John Schmitt, a senior economist at CEPR and co-author of the report:

Despite frequent claims to the contrary from some in the business community, we found no correlation between paid sick days and unemployment. Guaranteeing paid sick days does not put countries at a competitive disadvantage.

The House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing this week on the Healthy Families Act, H.R. 2460, sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), which would enable workers to take up to seven paid sick days per year to recover from illness or care for sick family members.

Opening the hearing, subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said:

We are now in the 21st century, and workers should not have to choose between their jobs or their families, but they still are forced to make those choices.

DeLauro testified before the subcommittee, saying sick leave for workers actually makes countries more competitive.

It is about keeping our businesses and workers strong and helping to maintain their edge in a tightening global economy. But, we also know, it is hard to stay ahead when 19 of the 20 most competitive countries in the world guarantee pad sick days—and the United States is the odd one out. What does it say when Lesotho and Papua New Guinea are implementing paid sick days to give their businesses and their entire nation a competitive edge, yet America still does not get it?

Woolsey pointed to the recent outbreak of the H1N1 virus as an example of the importance of sick leave.

Public health officials rightly tell [workers] to stay home from work and to keep their kids home from school. But can they afford to take time off to care for themselves and/or their families? The answer for at least 50 million workers is “No.”

Indeed, sick leave policies could pay off economically by restricting the costly spread of contagious diseases, says Dr. Jody Heymann, director of the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University and a co-author of the report.

The economic costs of a serious flu outbreak are potentially enormous. The lack of paid sick days in the United States puts Americans at substantially greater risk of contagious diseases—from the flu, which kills thousands annually to diarrheal disease, respiratory infections, and the threat of new diseases like the H1N1 flu virus.


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