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California legislature considers expanding worker sick leave

On Behalf of | May 23, 2023 | Employee Rights

Proposed legislation currently in the California Senate would more than double existing paid sick leave for employees starting in 2024. In mid-April, the Senate Labor, Employment and Retirement Committee approved Senate Bill 616. It now goes before the Appropriations Committee.

If passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, SB 616 would increase annual sick leave to 56 hours or seven days. Currently, employees are only entitled to three days (24 hours) of paid sick leave. The legislation would modify the sick leave accrual method used by employers.

Study shows paid sick leave helps employees and employers

SB 616 is one of many bills labeled “job killers” by the California Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. is one of the few developed countries without federal paid sick leave protections for workers. Researchers say the perception is that businesses are harmed by giving workers paid time off.

But a study released earlier this year suggests the opposite is true. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University and Cleveland State examined over two decades worth of research regarding paid sick leave and its long-term and short-term impacts on businesses. The results show companies offering more substantial paid sick leave policies experienced:

  • Increased employee morale and job satisfaction
  • Higher retention of workers
  • Fewer employees go to work when sick
  • Higher profitability and performance

The study’s lead author said that despite hearing much about the potential economic harm to businesses over an extended period, researchers found no evidence to support that claim. Instead, the data suggests companies with more robust paid sick leave policies are more successful. What researchers found to be true is that employees who come to work sick are more likely to hurt productivity and performance.

Sick leave policies are more accessible for higher-paid workers

The debate over paid sick leave policies has become more common and vigorous since worker shortages and resignations spiked during the pandemic. Adding to that concern is that only 51% of people in lower-paying jobs have access to paid sick leave. These individuals are often on the front lines in communities, such as in the food service, hospitality, and retail industries. By contrast, 92% of higher-paid workers have access to paid sick leave.

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