EDITORIAL: Paid sick leave could be a good idea


Published Apr 2, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

Paid sick leave might be a good idea for Oregon. That’s why House Bill 3390 deserves careful scrutiny.

But mandating paid sick leave goes too far.

HB 3390 proposes new requirements for businesses with six or more employees. It requires those businesses to allow employees to take at least seven days of paid sick leave per year. Employees would be able to earn sick leave at the rate of one hour of sick leave for 30 hours worked. Employees could even take the leave if a close family member was seriously sick or injured.

The bill includes notification requirements. Employees would be required to notify their employers about sick leave, but they would only be required to provide medical verification from a health care provider after taking three days of leave. The bill would also make it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who properly took paid sick leave.

Employees do get sick and no paid sick leave can have important consequences. It could mean employees have to work when seriously ill or take unpaid sick days.

Paid sick leave also has consequences. It costs employers money. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the cost of paid leave to employers in December 2012 was about 6.9 percent of total compensation. That includes all kinds of paid leave and all kinds of jobs.

What it means is that requiring employers to offer more paid leave could mean they can’t pay as much in wages and other benefits, or can’t hire as many people.

We were unable to track down statistics for Oregon, but nationwide about 66 percent of employers offer paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A lot depends on the type of job. About 79 percent of full-time jobs have paid sick leave. Only 25 percent of part-time jobs have paid sick leave.

When a legislative panel considers the bill on Wednesday, there should be a few important considerations — as they contemplate mandating the benefit.

First, HB 3390’s size requirement of only six employees seems far too small. New York City’s new requirement essentially starts at 20 employees. Even at that size, it’s going to be a problem. It’s likely to cost jobs.

We don’t agree that the benefit should be mandated to include paid sick leave for persons other than the immediate employee. The benefit should also accrue to all part-time employees in the same way many benefits begin — when a employee works more than 20 hours a week.

Oregon’s economy is fragile, clambering out of a recession. The bill’s requirements kick in January 2014. It could help kick the economy back in the wrong direction. Shouldn’t this additional cost to business be delayed?

It’s hard to argue against sensible paid sick leave. But HB 3390 is going to wallop small employers hard as they are struggling.