Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D)’s budget team is currently drafting a bill that would guarantee that the state’s workers can take paid leave when they get sick.
What’s known about the legislation is that it would require that businesses allow workers to earn two paid days a year based on how many hours they put in. It would apply to both full-time and part-time workers.
The United States is unique among many of its developed peers for its lack of a national law that guarantees all workers the right to earn paid sick leave. Just one state, Connecticut, has passed such legislation, although Illinois isn’t the only one to consider joining its ranks: California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington are also considering laws.
Connecticut’s experience bodes well for states thinking about passing paid sick days bills. Business groups often oppose the mandate, saying it will be too costly, and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the National Federation of Independent Business have already said they oppose Quinn’s proposal. But more than three-quarters of Connecticut’s businesses support the law two years after it went into effect, and a large majority say it hasn’t had any effect on their businesses operations and has come with either no increase in cost or a small one.
Nationally, 40 percent of private sector workers don’t have access to paid sick leave. In Illinois, that figure is 43 percent, according to the governor’s office. Quinn isn’t the only lawmaker in the state trying to change it; bills were introduced in both the House and Senate this year that would make sure workers could earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 40 they worked with a minimum of two a year. But while at least three bills calling for as many as seven paid days a year have been introduced since 2010, none of them even got a committee vote.
Action has been faster at the city level, as seven — Jersey City, NJ; Newark, NJ; New York City; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; San Francisco, CA; and Washington, D.C. — have passed paid sick leave legislation. But that action can encounter a roadblock, as some states are moving in the opposite direction and passing so-called preemption bills that block local governments from enacting paid sick days laws. Ten have already passed such laws and others could soon follow.
Yet as with Connecticut’s experience, the experience in cities with paid sick leave laws has been positive for businesses. Two-thirds of San Francisco’s businesses support its law and employment and business growth increased after it was enacted. Seattle’s job growth was also stronger the year after its law went into effect and business and sales growth also continued to increase. Washington, D.C.’s policy hasn’t discouraged business owners from locating in the city.
On the other hand, when workers don’t get paid leave, the average business loses $225 a year per employee thanks to lost productivity.