Mamas on Bedrest: National Paid Sick Leave is a Closer Reality!

March 20th, 2013

I am an ardent supporter paid sick leave for US workers. The United States is one of only 4 countries world wide that offers no sort of paid leave for maternity, medical illness/treatment or to care for an ill family member. While most of us will agree that the United States offers unparalleled employment opportunities, it is shocking and disturbing that the US does nothing to support its workers when they or those they love fall ill.

I suppose with so many workers to choose from, there is no incentive to be loyal to employees. The US unemployment rate is still over 7% and there are many people willing to work for wages well below what they are worth and take jobs well below their skill set in order to simply secure a job and meet the needs of their families. It’s a very precarious work environment.

But I am still baffled as to why employers are so averse to supporting their employees.  According to the Center for American Progress, when an employee who earns $50,000 per year leaves a company-regardless of whether they leave voluntarily or are asked to leave-the cost to replace that employee is approximately 20% of that person’s annual salary. In the US, approximately 75% of the workforce earns $50,000 or less annually.  Likewise, if the employee earns $75,000 per year and leaves, the employer again has to spend approximately 20% of that employee’s salary or roughly $15,000 to replace that employee. Now considering that 9 out of 10 employees in the United States earns less than $75,000 annually, this can have substantial ramifications if a company has a high turnover rate. The Center for American Progress notes that the cost to replace a worker who makes less than $30,000 annually is slightly less, approximately 16%, yet lower waged service workers are often those with the highest turnover as they seek to increase their annual earnings. And not surprising, the cost to replace an executive or professional employee can be as high as 213% of the employee’s annual salary! Wouldn’t it simply make sense for employers to offer their employees better benefit packages that included health benefits, paid time off and flexible working schedules?

This is a situation that I closely watch for Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond. Many, many mamas have contacted me and my colleagues distraught because of mounting debt and job loss due to being placed on prescribed bed rest. As a result, I do what I can to advocate for paid family leave including presenting cases to Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) with my friend, colleague and the Executive Director of Better Bedrest Joanie Reisfeld, supporting the Paid Medical Leave Initiatives advocated for by the National Partnership for Women and Families, Working Mother Magazine and MomsRising and educating women and families about their leave options.  According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, To date:

The Portland City Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that will let tens of thousands of workers in Portland earn the paid sick days they need. The bill is awaiting signature from Mayor Hales, making the bill law, and making Portland the fourth city to provide paid sick days.

The Philadelphia City Council, once again, approved a similar measure that would guarantee Philadelphians the same right. Hopefully Philadelphia Mayor Nutter, who vetoed the paid sick days bill in 2011, will take a second look and sign this common sense proposal.

Laws are already in place and working well in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Connecticut. And there are dozens of efforts to advance similar proposals across the country, including in New York City, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Given the economic benefits to companies and the benefits to working families, paid medical leave just makes sense. We Mamas on Bedrest know this, economists know this, advocates know this and yet the fight continues. Hopefully corporate CEO’s and lawmakers will evaluate the data and see that paid medical leave just makes sense. As the Center for American Progress noted,

“This brief documents that the cost of employee turnover for businesses is high, regardless of the level of wages being paid to the departing or incoming employees. Companies typically pay about one-fifth of an employee’s salary to replace that employee. While it costs businesses more to replace their very-highest-paid employees, the costs for most employers remains significant and does become less significant for those with low earnings.

Workplace policies that improve employee retention can help companies reduce their turnover costs. Family-friendly policies such as paid family leave and workplace flexibility help retain valuable employees who need help balancing work and family. For example, research has found that access to any form of parental leave makes women more likely to return to work after giving birth. Moreover, by 2050 up to 20 percent of Americans will be older than age 65, and improved leave policies would allow workers to provide the care their elderly parents may need without having to sacrifice their livelihoods.”

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