A Year and a Half of Earned Sick Days in Connecticut: Notable Benefits, Minimal Drawbacks

New Jersey’s business lobbyists predict dire consequences if all the state’s workers are allowed to take time off when they are sick without losing pay. But in reality, earned sick day policies don’t harm businesses or the economy. The latest proof comes from Connecticut.

In 2011 Connecticut became the first state to enact an earned sick days law. The law became effective in January 2012, and researchers recently presented preliminary findings on the effects on business, 18 months in.

The study largely disproves the canard that earned sick day legislation is financially burdensome and administratively tedious. Instead, the research shows what we’ve been saying all along: the burdens on employers are minimal while the benefits to employees are substantial.

Over three-quarters of the 251 employers surveyed now support the law, one-fifth say fewer employees came to work sick and nearly one third say earned sick days have boosted employee morale. On the other side of the ledger, most employers have covered the work of absent employees at minimal or no cost.

The law covers around 400,000 of Connecticut’s 1.7 million workers who previously lacked this basic benefit, including a disproportionate number of part-time service-sector workers whose employers didn’t offer paid time off for illness.

Although the law’s effectiveness is limited by its numerous carve-outs – it only applies to service-sector workers in 68 job classifications, for example, and it exempts companies with fewer than 50 employees – it extends a basic and essential right to many workers. While a handful of cities across the nation, including Jersey City, have passed earned sick days legislation, Connecticut is the first state to do so. And the experience there offers even more reasons why New Jersey should be the next state in line.

Fears of business groups regarding the effects of earned sick days are speculative and largely imagined. In New Jersey, over 1 million workers will still lack these benefits even if Newark follows Jersey City’s lead this week and gives final passage to its own earned sick days policy. New Jersey legislators should take heed of Connecticut’s success and follow suit.

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