6/16/08

SEIU drives Ohio to economic disadvantage

Statewide sick leave mandate a bad idea

With a name like the “Ohio Healthy Families Act” and the promise of seven paid sick days per employee, how can voters say “no”? With a little education, that’s how. The Healthy Families Act is neither good for families nor good for health as it stands.

The Service Employees International Union drafted the legislation as a citizen initiative under the Ohio Constitution. The state legislature was wise enough to try to let the act die a meaningful death on the table, but the backers of the proposal are gathering signatures to have voters consider the proposal in November.

Voters must defeat this proposal.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with workers being guaranteed a certain level of sick time.

But the problem is that under the Ohio Healthy Families Act, it will not be up to employers to set the terms of employment for their workers based on what the business can afford, nor will companies that already have policies in place be able to continue using those policies unfettered by state interference.

In addition to being an unwarranted interference in the employee-employer relationship by government, the act brings a spate of concerns.

Workers are apparently assumed to be upright and honest, while employers are assumed to stand ready to make sure workers never get a day off. The act would allow employees to take time off in increments of as short as an hour or as long as three consecutive work days without having to provide an excuse to the employer.

The worker needs only inform the employer he intends to take time off, either in writing or verbally, and then the employer can’t ask further questions. It’s time off for the worker. The hour-at-a-time provision allows those who want to leave early every Friday to simply get “sick” an hour before closing time. Seven full days of sick time annually amounts to 56 hours a week. There are 52 weeks in a year.

There also is a fallacy about sick time not having an associated cost. If you’ve got a job and you’re being paid, obviously there is some worth you provide to product, service, customer and company. If you’re not there, someone has to take up the slack, either in overtime, or in work that plain doesn’t get done.

The act also states that employers cannot use an assessment of the employee’s use of sick time as a basis for making personnel decisions. And, workplaces that have sick leave policies that are better than the proposed statewide policy would not be able to reduce their policy if the act becomes law. That means that if tough times hit your firm ahead, sick leave policy cannot be visited as a cost-saving measure.

And all of that is before considering the potential legal ramifications of the act, with its ambiguous language that surely will lead to costly lawsuits.

Voters have to think about this one. The slick campaign that will surely come this fall once signatures to put the act on the ballot will feature tug-at-the-heartstrings images, tales of families that fell apart because the head of the household had to choose between work or caring for a sick child or parent.

Emotion is not, however, an economic staple.

Jobs and employment are.

Employers know they have to compete for good workers, and that means being flexible about working hours and time off. Rigid policy enforced across the spectrum of every employer with 25 employees or more won’t allow flexibility.

There’s a reason such laws aren’t in place in any other state. They’re a bad idea.

Ohio doesn’t need to put itself at an economic disadvantage with a statewide sick leave mandate.

(salemnews.net)

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