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Should companies provide paid sick leave to employees?

Staff Report • Oct 21, 2013 at 8:57 AM

While there is no federal law requiring employers to provide employees with paid sick leave, some employers do offer such coverage as part of their benefits. Even so, the Center for American Progress estimates 38 percent of workers in this country do not receive any paid sick leave.The center also calculates that unhealthy workers cost businesses $160 billion annually in lost productivity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the annual flu season can be blamed for a $10.5 billion hit to employers to cover the costs of doctors’ visits and hospital stays.The United States is the only major industrialized nation without a national paid sick-leave policy (although federal employees are guaranteed 13 paid sick days a year). U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has filed legislation to allow both full- and part-time employees nationwide to earn paid sick days to care for themselves and their families.Many states and cities have also tried to tackle the issue. Portland, Ore., San Francisco and Seattle along with the state of Connecticut have approved laws mandating that employers provide workers with paid sick time.There is no Tennessee law mandating private employers provide employees in this state with sick leave — paid or otherwise.Meanwhile, there are a number of states that have approved legislation written by the American Legislative Exchange Council to prohibit local governments from requiring companies to extend paid sick days to their employees. Similar bills are being debated in Florida, Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma and Washington.Efforts to pass such legislation became a priority for many conservative lawmakers after the city of New York passed an ordinance earlier this year to require businesses there to extend paid sick leave to their employees. Such requirements have received stiff push back from the fast-food and hospitality industries. Officials for those industries argue paid sick leave would significantly increase their cost of doing business.We’d like to hear from you. Do you think companies should provide paid sick leave for their employees?Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717 Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages soon.

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