While we’re all about showing respect to co-workers by staying home when you’re sick, and we think it’s a good idea for companies to consider to allot paid sick days to workers so that they can (a) get better more quickly and work more effectively by not trying to work while sick and (b) not infect others, we think there’s danger with this:
U.S. employers who tell workers to stay home when they are sick will have to give them paid time off for up to five days under new federal legislation proposed on Tuesday.
Is this a good idea? Let’s look at the incentives.
First thing that really jumps out is that you’re now incentivizing businesses to NOT tell workers to stay home when they’re sick!
Next thing that jumps out is that if companies somehow overcome this incentive to not send sick workers home but are going to be forced to pay for all non-work from sick employees, guess which kinds of people aren’t going to be able to find work? Right. Those more prone to sickness, i.e. the weak and poor.
Just another example of how a government program will hurt the very people it purports to help.
By requiring payment for sick leave, you introduce discrimination against the weak and incentives to invite more illness into the workplace. Let the market work this out, not bureaucratic central planners. Employers know they have to strike a balance with their employees, their workplace, their customers, etc. By mandating a certain, somewhat arbitrary course of behavior that the people involved have not contracted, the government creates perverse incentives that really do nothing to remedy the underlying concerns.
Also, if you’re not careful, you’ll get people faking illness (claiming they have symptoms that they don’t), or not taking precautions against exposing themselves to illness. If you know you’ll lose pay if you get sick, you take precautions to avoid illness. However, if you know that if you’re sick you’ll get paid anyway and can sit at home and watch TV, you’ll be less inclined to take close care of your health. Think not? Then you don’t understand people and their economic calculations.