Miles’ Law, named for Rufus Miles, a chief in the U.S. Bureau of the Budget in the 1940’s, states that “where you stand depends on where you sit.” That law certainly applies to paid sick leave legislation.

Advocates tout that everyone will benefit, including businesses. For example, Portland, Oregon recently enacted an ordinance requiring sick time for employees of businesses in Portland. Among the litany of findings in the ordinance were some which purport to benefit business, such as reduced worker turnover and reduced risk of workers coming to work with illnesses and health conditions that reduce their productivity (often referred to as “presenteeism”).

A recent study by the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) reported the response by Connecticut businesses to the Connecticut Paid Sick Leave Law, which went into effect on January 1, 2012. According to that study, as a consequence of that law, employers responded in various ways, including by raising consumer prices, reducing or increasing the cost of other employee benefits, reducing hours and overtime, and reducing wages.  Some employers reported they were likely to hire fewer employees. Other said they would restrict expansion in Connecticut.

As for the benefits to business, the EPI survey notes that one advocacy group claimed that Connecticut employers would save $73 million annually due in large part to cost savings from reduced employee turnover. In the EPI survey, only two employers of the 156 responding believed paid sick leave would reduce employee turnover and only two believed it would increase employee productivity.  

As for reducing “presenteeism,” i.e. the number of sick employees coming to work, the EPI study refers to a 2011 report concerning San Francisco’s paid sick leave law, which went into effect in 2007. That report  noted “that 80 percent of employers in San Francisco reported that “presenteeism” …was unchanged following passage of the city’s sick leave mandate.”

The EPI survey notes that “[w]hile it will take time to determine the true effect on employees, these preliminary results suggest that the monetary benefits of sick days were overstated in Connecticut—much as they were in San Francisco”…and perhaps in Portland?