Paid sick leave is quickly catching on as a must-have benefit, driven by both government mandates and business realities.
In June, Oregon became the fourth state to require employers to provide workers with paid sick leave. Philadelphia and Emeryville, Calif., have passed paid leave statutes this year and Montgomery County, Md., outside Washington, D.C., is poised to do so as well.
Offering paid leave benefits isn’t all about altruism. Many large employers have begun voluntarily providing paid leave to bolster their retention and recruitment efforts. Fast food chains Chipotle and McDonald’s have begun offering paid leave to hourly workers. Microsoft has, too. Until recently, they didn’t need to.
Now they see paid leave as a way to offer a valuable benefit to employees without raising wages. With unemployment dipping below 6%, employers are finding they must compete for employees in high-demand areas. Paid leave represents a deferred possible cost as opposed to the current, definite cost of higher wages.
The two leading Democratic presidential candidates have expressed support for paid leave. Hillary Rodham Clinton has spoken of a national bill in aspirational terms, but doesn’t see the votes for it in Congress. Sen. Bernie Sanders has long called for national legislation mandating paid vacation, sick and.
Conservatives in Congress staunchly oppose mandatory paid leave, believing that the requirement would hurt small businesses and ultimately slow wage growth.
In June, the U.S. Department of Labor announced $1.25 million in grants to study how to implement paid leave nationally.
While employers may be anxious at the prospect of national legislation, the lack of federal policy leads to a patchwork of compliance issues. Already, employers must contend with differing state and federal leave laws. Now local governments are mandating benefits as well.
Advice: Regularly review your leave policies and consult with your attorney to ensure you are complying with the pertinent laws in every locale where you operate.