On March 6 the Portland City Council may vote on whether to require virtually all businesses that employ six or more people to provide them at least five paid sick days per year.

Some supporters of this policy believe it’s actually immoral to make someone choose between coming to work sick and losing a day’s pay needed to take care of their family. Another perspective is that it’s immoral to impose such a policy when its cost may very well lead to less employment, especially for the working poor.

Supporters also argue that other cities and states are beginning to implement such policies, and at least 45 other countries already have them. Of course, other jurisdictions have lots of policies that reduce the flexibility and freedom of employer-employee relationships, and their economies generally suffer the consequences. Such impositions elsewhere shouldn’t justify adding them here.

Finally, some local economists believe the cost of extending paid sick days to employees is far outweighed by reductions in other business costs associated with employee turnover.

But if such positive tradeoffs were obvious to employers, they would offer paid sick days voluntarily out of their own economic self-interest. Of course, it’s not government’s job to encourage voluntary implementation of anything.

Remember that government “is not eloquence, it is force. Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”*

*Often attributed to George Washington, similar phrases were apparently in common use in the 1700’s.

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.


3 Responses to “Sick of Government Sick Leave Policies”

  1. Bill Stearns February 9, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    From a public-policy perspective, one of the more persuasive arguments for this requirement is that it will result in a decrease in the spreading of infectious diseases such as the flu, etc. Now whether or not there is any known scientific evidence in support of this idea I do not know, but it certainly seems common-sensical on the face of it.

    And the assertion that if something truly is more efficient, businesses would aready be doing it flies in the face of the facts and assumes perfect knowledge that does not exist in the real world. One of the primary drivers of competition is the search for new and more efficient ways of doing or producing something. If the most efficient route to all ends was already known that why go through the charade of competition? You invite the bureaucratic state with this assumption…

    • Steve Buckstein February 11, 2013 at 12:02 am #

      Agreed that perfect knowledge that does not exist in the real world. But, the businesses affected by this policy certainly have more interest in getting it right than the politicians who propose it but don’t have to live with the consequences.

  2. Johny A Belgarde February 11, 2013 at 2:30 am #

    I agree.
    The State has no business in interfering with a businesses operation. In a robust economy a person is always free to seek better employment elsewhere. It is called voting with your feet. Unfortunately government is the cause or our depressed economy, over regulation being a primary cause for a decrease in available jobs.
    A loot of the employment being complained about used to be considered a stepping stone into the work environment. It is where you learned the discipline of becoming a productive member of your community. Simple things as showing up on time and giving an honest days work for an honest wage.
    If you felt you wanted more money you sought out ways to improve your employable status through training and good work habits.
    Many people come into the workforce with the expectation that they are worth their weight in gold when they preform as well as a sack rocks.
    Less regulation with the exception being safety standards is what Oregon needs not more regulation. Keeping up with regulations and compliance takes a big bite out of the bottom line.

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