Friday, June 26, 2009

Who's the boss?

How much involvement should the federal government have in the personnel policies of U.S. business owners? That is a question at the heart of the debate surrounding the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 2460/S.1152). If passed, it would require employers with 15 or more employees to offer paid sick leave to their staff: about seven days per year for full-time employees and one hour for every 30 hours worked for part-timers.

In an industry that has shed nearly 1 million jobs in the past year, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, construction companies and their suppliers have had to come up with creative ways to avoid layoffs. The introduction of mandatory paid sick leave could mean the difference between making payroll or not, argue Associated Builders and Contractors officials. "Small businesses across the country are struggling to keep their doors open in these trying times and mandating paid leave will only aggravate this already fragile situation, they stated in a June 10 letter to the House of Representatives. "At a time when employers are struggling to avoid layoffs and business closures, imposing paid leave mandates on employers is unwise policy that threatens jobs and the viability of many of the nation's small businesses," they stated.

Proponents of the act, however, point out that many Americans feel forced to go to work when sick for fear of losing their jobs or a day's pay. "There's something wrong when people have to choose between their jobs and taking care of themselves or their families when someone is sick," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut in a New York Times article

I think we can all agree that employees should be able to take a sick day if they or their family members are ill. The question is, on whose terms? Should sick day policy be up to the employer or the government?

—By Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine

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