Paid sick days

Working an office “9 to 5 job” has always been challenging for me. I hate dress codes, my internal body clock works best at night and it’s hard for me to sit still in one place for 8 hours…let alone 8 minutes. However, now that I freelance full-time (which is a blessing but it ain’t no joke) I do miss certain perks: offline socialization, bi-weekly pay checks and especially paid sick days.

Think about those days where you have a throbbing headache, you’re coughing up funky chunky stuff, you have tissues stuck up your nose to stop it from running, your stomach is keeping you tied to the toilet, your uterus is ripping apart…or you’re just flat out exhausted, physically and mentally. Many working people are able to pick up the phone, call their boss and have the security of taking care of themselves without losing a full day’s wages.

However a large part of the working population such as domestic workers, food service/waitstaff, and retail employees in New York City do not have this luxury. Not only are they not likely to have health insurance, they certainly don’t have sick days. This specifically hits home for many women, especially women of color and/or immigrant women, who are often caretakers for their families in addition to being breadwinners. Many women have to choose between earning money to provide basic necessities for themselves and their family, or staying home sick or with a sick family member. It’s not really much of a choice, is it?

Right now this issue is gaining awareness thanks to the Paid Sick Days campaign which is mobilizing New Yorkers, especially women, to pressure the City Council to vote on a piece of legislation that would require businesses with five or more employees to provide 5 sick days to their employees. What’s holding back this vote is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Speaker Quinn has been an advocate of many women’s rights issues and undoubtedly is depending on women to support her during her run to be the first woman mayor of New York City next year. However she is blocking this legislation from coming to a vote in the city council despite overwhelming support for paid sick days. There is enough support that the city council to override Bloomberg if he tries to veto it if/when the vote goes through.

She claims that this legislation is costly for businesses. Let’s call bullshit. Here’s how much paid sick days would cost businesses according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research:

“In an October 2009 report using government data, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimated the cost of implementing an earned paid sick time measure in New York City at 15 cents per hour worked for smaller firms and 23 cents per hour worked for larger firms.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the cost of providing paid sick time at 1.1 percent of total compensation for private industry workers in the New York area. This is a small cost compared to the productivity, employee retention, and health savings gains associated with paid sick time.”

In short, small or large companies would not be going belly up, nor would even be stressed out, if this legislation is passed.

What’s actually costly is running a mayoral campaign. Think about placing ads, making appearances, and importance of having powerful friends in the right places. These business bigwigs don’t want to be forced to shell out a little extra dough for their employees’ health…yes, those employees whose underpaid and undervalued work is lining their overflowing pockets. We already know Bloomberg’s connection to big business so it’s not hard to imagine that she wants to be in good graces with him and his donors.

As much as Speaker Quinn may need these rich businessfolk, she needs progressive women voters who are not playing politics with real people’s lives. I’m not impressed seeing her at events supporting the Affordable Care Act, or abortion funds, if she is going to throw women, particularly low-income women, women of color and/or immigrant women under the bus for her political aspirations. *arms folded* Perhaps that’s harsh so let me step back: this is an opportunity for NYC residents to show big business that we will not let them push around our politicians while they continue to take advantage of us as a workforce. We are pushing back.

So what can we as constituents do? There are a couple of online petitions that take literally one minute to sign:

Coalition petition for paid sick days:
http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/1306/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6361

Signon.org petition from Gloria Steinem:
http://signon.org/sign/speaker-quinn-allow-a?source=c.url&r_by=4643457

You can also support by spreading the word by posting articles and resources on Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, whatever outlets you use. Specifically if you’re on Twitter, follow the campaign using the hashtag: #paidsickdays and you can tweet directly to Speaker Quinn at @ChrisCQuinn and let her know that if she wants your vote then she needs to allow the city council to vote for paid sick days.

33 comments for “Paid sick days

  1. August 17, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Thanks for providing links! I used to work at a sandwich shop near Grand Central, and there was one chef who had an open sore on his finger (can’t remember if it was a burn, a cut, or just dry and overworked skin that cracked) that didn’t heal for weeks. He was clean about it- wore bandages, gloves, cleaned it thoroughly, but because he couldn’t get paid time off his finger never got a chance to mend and would open up whenever he had to grab something.

    Do we seriously want people with open sores to have to come to prepare your food every day? Because they have no other way to make a living? It’s disgusting for everyone involved.

  2. Joe from an alternate universe
    August 17, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    These business bigwigs don’t want to be forced to shell out a little extra dough for their employees’ health…yes, those employees whose underpaid and undervalued work is lining their overflowing pockets. We already know Bloomberg’s connection to big business so it’s not hard to imagine that she wants to be in good graces with him and his donors.

    Hmmm…., you’ve obviously never worked for or owned a really small business. I don’t consider a business owners with 5 employees to be “business bigwigs”, but I realize a lot of people do.

    As someone who has owned many businesses from 3 to 20 employees, and managed businesses from 4 or more, I can tell you that they aren’t rolling in money, or have overflow pockets as you say, and frequently go without pay to pay the employees first or borrow money to make payroll.

    Out of H.S. I managed a business that started with 4 employees and the owner frequently went without pay for a month or two, to the point where his wife came to me to complain about the lack of money. I told her if he took the money, our suppliers would have to go without payment, and were always late with those payments anyway. They’d cut off supplies if we went any longer.

  3. August 17, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    The thing with small businesses (>20 employees) is, you can only earn up to 5 sick days per year And one week buys you one hour. It won’t be that huge of a stretch for people in small businesses, methinks. Plus, a health scare in a small business would hurt that business more than a health scare in a McDonalds, for example.

  4. Joe from an alternate universe
    August 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    The thing with small businesses (>20 employees) is, you can only earn up to 5 sick days per year And one week buys you one hour. It won’t be that huge of a stretch for people in small businesses, methinks. Plus, a health scare in a small business would hurt that business more than a health scare in a McDonalds, for example.

    The problem is that all of these calculation only include the cost of paying the actual sick day, they don’t include paying a replacement if you can find one, or paying another employee to pick up the shift, including overtime. Potentially, that day can cost 2 1/2 times the sick employees salary (when his/her pay is included), or more if you have to hire a temp. These calculations are also based, it seems, on minumum wage. For the companies I’ve dealt with the pay is a lot higher, and hiring a temp was 3 times salary.

    I agree. it’s smart business, if you have the money, to pay a really sick and potentially infectious employee to stay home. But financially struggling small businesses should have the flexibility to find solutions that work for them. I instituted a policy at companies I managed of allowing sick employees to change their shift or day with another employee, costing the company very little. A win – win. But a lot of times I ended up working overtime for no money.

    But the main objection I have is to the attitude that these people are fat cats. Some are, but a lot are just trying to make it.

    Advice, if you’re not willing to work from dawn until bed time, can’t realize that business in not just part of you, it is you, and are not willing to accept that no mattter where you are, you can never be out of pocket, even on vaction or a date, then you don’t belong in business. Or if you do start a business please let me know who you are, so I can avoid dealing with you.

  5. AndrewJenny
    August 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Two thoughts:

    1. Could these sick days be used to take care of a sick child? My mom always saved her sick days for when I was sick.

    2. Could businesses get around this by using temp or contract employees, as Amazon and others have done to get around OSHA regulations?

    I think its a great idea, and long overdue.

  6. AndrewJenny
    August 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    I can’t find the Amazon link, but here’s one about Walmart’s abuse of contract employees:

    http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/03/lawsuit-walmart-contractor-paid-3-dollars-hour

  7. Joe from an alternate universe
    August 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    2. Could businesses get around this by using temp or contract employees, as Amazon and others have done to get around OSHA regulations?

    If those companies that are contracted to do the work have 5 or more employees then it doesn’t matter, they are subject to the law.

    If a company hire individuals as contract (1099) employees on a nearly permanent basis, then the IRS will have something to say about that. And I guarantee that companies are very wary of crossing the IRS. That’s why most large companies don’t want to hire individuals and independents, even for skilled positions. If they do they really like you too be a sub S or LLC, which makes the 1099 issue better with the IRS. The employees you mention worked for other corporations, they didn’t work for Amazon or Walmart. The contracting companies are responsible for violating wage and OSHA laws, not their customers.

  8. Nawtaskollar
    August 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    I know this is a well-intentioned idea, but all that will end up happening is higher costs for businesses which means less employment or lower wages as well as higher costs for goods and services. Is that really helping anyone?

    Also, as pointed out above, this is one of the many ways regulations disproportionately impact very small businesses, furthering the interests of massive corporations that can more easily absorb regulatory costs.

  9. Joe from an alternate universe
    August 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Also, as pointed out above, this is one of the many ways regulations disproportionately impact very small businesses, furthering the interests of massive corporations that can more easily absorb regulatory costs.

    Yes, and almost all of the “business bigwigs” already offer sick leave and disability insurance. 99% of big business will not be affected by this law, but they are being used as the boogey man. Why do you think they are going all the way down to 5 employees? This isn’t about big or even medium sized businesses. It’s a bait and switch.

  10. karak
    August 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I quit jobs when I get sick. I’m forced to quit or be fired, and then they go through the rigamarole of finding someone new, training someone new, usually someone who isn’t as competent as I am. It costs the companies WEEKS of pay to get someone else as up on the job as I was. A few DAYS of sick leave would save them hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

    Not to mention the times I’ve gone to work puking/bleeding/hacking on my coworkers and my customers. God alone knows how much that cost the company when I infected the entire workforce instead of keeping my ass home. And since I go to work sick, it takes me even longer to recover and get into the doctor, thus making me unproductive, and contagious, for much longer periods.

  11. DouglasG
    August 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Ah, yes; I have more than once (though fortunately not for at least five or six years) stopped on my way somewhere to throw up and then gone on and gotten through it. Once I threw up in the middle of a group session I was running, and had to convince everyone I was quite up to carrying on.

  12. EG
    August 17, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Hmmm…., you’ve obviously never worked for or owned a really small business. I don’t consider a business owners with 5 employees to be “business bigwigs”, but I realize a lot of people do.

    I think you misunderstand the post. It’s not the owners of small businesses whom Quinn needs to buddy up to in order to get funds. It is business bigwigs. They’re the ones who don’t want this, because, indeed, they are cutting corners in various ways, and this is one of them. Quinn is using the specter of small business owners in order to hide the larger business interests she’s actually subject to.

  13. Out Sick of It
    August 18, 2012 at 12:35 am

    We need more of something called humanity. There used to be a time when illnesses were respected. I own my own business…I am forced to work when I am sick, when my family needs me more, clients don’t care…these are the same clients whose emails bounce back with “out sick, on vacation” etc. because they have nice salaried jobs with cushy benefits that they use – often. God forbid their phone call is not returned the same day, or that I am out of the office that day. We’ve got two classes of people now, the “corporate class” and “everyone else”. And no law will save the small business owner in the new economy when there are more laborers available than work – such a law is not even being proposed. How about a law that you cannot threaten to move a job if the worker, regardless of how they work (part time, full time, independent contractor) is temporarily out sick?

  14. Lauren M
    August 18, 2012 at 2:54 am

    Ah, yes; I have more than once (though fortunately not for at least five or six years) stopped on my way somewhere to throw up and then gone on and gotten through it. Once I threw up in the middle of a group session I was running, and had to convince everyone I was quite up to carrying on.

    oh yes, I have politely excused myself to throw up in the middle of highlighting someone’s hair or even just swallowed it and carried on because I had no other choice. I have no health insurance and I work on commission so if I don’t go to work, I don’t get paid.

  15. MiZ
    August 18, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I think it’s great that this campaign exists and people are actually fighting for paid sick days. Sometimes all you need is 24 hours to recover from something that might drag out for a week, or one afternoon to go to a doctor’s clinic to find out what’s up. Isn’t it better for everyone if a sick person checks out for one day, than if they force themselves to go to work, run themselves down, and potentially pass whatever they have to the rest of the work force?

    Unfortunately, a lot (not all) business owners view paid sick days and similar worker benefits as extraordinary luxuries. I once worked at a call center/germ factory that unionized while I was there, and the issue of sick days was huge. During info sessions with the union organizer, anyone who asked was told that sick days weren’t even on the table because there’s no way we would get them given “the kind of job this is” (re: not important enough).

    And about the whole big business vs. small business thing: I have worked for enough small retail businesses to have heard multiple versions of the whole “we’re a small business and can’t possibly be expected to ___________ for our employees” song and dance (fill in the blank with any commonplace worker benefit you can think of). I’m sure some small businesses value their employees greatly, but I live in a city where a number of small businesses trumpet themselves as these wonderful local and family-run outfits for whom it is a privilege to work. Who needs paid sick days when you get to revel in the cachet of working for just-above minimum wage in some eco-friendly hipster coffee shop?

  16. Partial Human
    August 18, 2012 at 11:52 am

    What MiZ said.

    I can’t believe what sort of labour practices are legal in the US, and I’m not surprised that this thread was immediately derailed by “WAH! WHAT ABOUT THE BUSINESS OWNERS? WAAAH!”

    Screw minorities, women with kids? Ha! Worthless and replaceable, mere meat puppets. People with disabilities and chronic illnesses? LOL NO! Not employing them, they’re all gross and needy,

    That’s America though, ain’t it? Those who scream the loudest get heard, and the exhausted masses get the shaft.

  17. Alara Rogers
    August 18, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    I am a small business owner.

    If your payroll cannot absorb 5 sick days per year per employee, you have hired too many people in the first place. People get sick, and you have to be compensating for that. It’s basic human nature; you can’t assume that your employees will never get sick any more than you can assume they can safely work 20 hour shifts.

    Moreover, as a small business owner your own health is critical to protect, because you don’t get sick days and you actually might need to work frequent 20 hour shifts… and if you get sick because a sick employee came in anyway because you don’t pay them for sick days, you may be unable to do important work. It doesn’t matter how willing you are to work through a terrible headache, nausea and total exhaustion; you’ll still be inefficient and bad at it, and decisions you must make constantly as a small business owner need to be made with as clear a head as possible. You don’t get to spend your time on mindless grunt work, no matter what your business is, and if you make a bad decision because your head was swimming and you were coughing constantly and you felt like you really needed to sleep for a week, that bad decision could potentially destroy your business, or at the least make you suffer through a month of you, personally, eating ramen and mac and cheese so you can avoid going bankrupt.

    Sick employees can get you sick. Sick employees don’t have their head in the game. Sick employees, or employees with sick children, may very well take the time off anyway, so if you were going to need a temp to come in, it’s not like you’re likely to be able to save that money just by not paying your sick employee for their time off. If your business is food service, sick employees can lose you business (would you go to a restaurant where the waiter sneezed on you?) and can, in extremity, get you shut down by the health department. And *having sick employees is predictable.* It is as utterly foolish to build a business model around the idea that your employees will never get sick as it is to build one around the idea that they will never need sleep… or, for that matter, around the idea that shipping doesn’t cost anything, because the reality that employees get sick is just as real and just as predictable as the fact that when you ship things there is a cost to it.

    If you cannot afford your employee’s regular wages plus 5 extra days plus the cost of a temp worker for 5 days, you cannot afford that employee. Turnover costs money. The day of training you need to give to even a low-paid, low-skilled employee consumes at least 1 day of that employee’s time *and* 1 day of a different employee’s time, because a person who spends their day training a newbie isn’t doing anything else productive. If you end up with people quitting or getting fired due to them being sick, you’re losing any days between “employee leaves” and “new employee onboards”, and you’re also losing 2 person-days once a new employee comes on. All that needs to happen is 3 days between employee A quitting and employee B getting hired and then trained by employee C before you have lost just as much money as you would have by giving A five sick days. And, how much productivity will you lose if employee A got you sick before having to quit? *You* need your brain, and it doesn’t work well when you’re sick.

    I am totally unsympathetic to the argument that small business needs to be able to not give employees sick days. Small business absolutely needs to give employees sick days, because small businesses live and die on the health of the owner, and if the owner gets sick because a sick employee came in, it can destroy the business. It is a lot safer for a mega business like McDonald’s where the owners are totally isolated from the workers to not give their people sick days… and *they* can afford the sick days so they don’t have a good excuse either. I don’t want my employees getting me sick, so I don’t want them in my office when they’re sick, and given human nature, the best way to get a full-time employee to stay home when sick is to pay them to do it.

    (Note that this actually isn’t true of part time employees, and I’m a lot more sympathetic to the idea of not paying part timers for sick days, because a part timer can usually just re-arrange what hours they are going to work. If a 20 hr employee was coming in Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for 4 hr shifts and then Saturday for 8 hours, and they are sick on Monday, let them work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for 4 hour shifts and don’t pay them for the sick time. But a full time employee doesn’t have that flexibility; you can’t just work 8 hours on Saturday because you were sick on Monday, because you may well have pre-existing obligations for Saturday. And you can’t work extra hours Tuesday through Friday because you probably have obligations fencing your work hours in. So they will probably either need a paid sick day, or they will come in and cough all over you.)

    I’m living on ramen noodles to make payroll *right now*. The summer is IT consulting’s worst season. I just had to fire a guy for making too much money while doing too little billable work. I haven’t had a vacation that wasn’t work related in two years. I went to a concert last night and spent the entire time that the opening bands were playing in organizing my to-do list for the upcoming week and doing my cash flow projections. Believe me, I understand about small business owners working incredibly hard to make payroll and survive in a tough economy; that’s been my life for three years now. But I still don’t sympathize with small business owners riding the wwaaambulance of “we can’t afford sick pay!” You can’t afford the lack of sick pay. If you made a business plan based on “my employees will never get sick”, you ought to go into business with the underpants gnomes, because your business acumen is about at the level of “1. Steal underpants. 2. ?? 3. Profit!” Keeping your employees relatively healthy, and therefore, keeping them away from each other (and you) when one is sick, and also, paying for at least minimal health insurance for them that will cover prescription drugs and wellness visits, is in fact vital to the survival of your business, and if you don’t think so, then your problem is you are alive in the wrong century… go into cryosleep and come out when you can employ robots. Oh, wait, cryosleep isn’t a thing yet either? Man, sucks to be you. Grow a brain or get out of business, and stop whining at me that you need to be a hard-assed Republican who treats people like machines or your business won’t survive… because people aren’t machines, and if your business requires them to be, then guess what, your business won’t survive. Also, your business won’t survive because you are a dumbass with no grasp of reality. I bet you also believe your electricity isn’t an overhead cost and that it makes sense to pay six times as much to avoid capex.

  18. Ens
    August 18, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Most of the arguments Joe from an alternate universe is providing aren’t about paid sick days, they are about *any* sick days. Canada doesn’t have mandatory paid sick days but it does have mandatory job protection for up to 12 weeks (!) — must be accompanied by a doctor’s note if requested, but healthcare is nationalized — and it’s fairly consistently the country in the OECD with the smallest small business bankruptcy/failure rate. There’s lots of reasons for this of course — eg. business taxes in Canada are much, much lower than in the US since the tax burden is shifted to personal taxes — but it’s pretty conclusive that it can be done.

    And if the pay on top to make it paid sick leave is really that onerous, then just nationalize minimum sick leave indexed to income and have done with it — now you have a big pile of money to play with to make it work. I know government-run social safety nets are profane in the US, so the other option is to suck it up and do paid sick leave for the minimal extra cost as originally suggested.

    It does kind of suck for a small business owner when, say, their one weekend employee is suddenly sick and there’s no easy way to replace that position. It also sucks for a sick person. Sickness sucks and it’s not any more the sick person’s fault than the employer’s (the vast majority of the time, anyway — if you could really prove they got sick on purpose, then, well, ok).

    What do you think the right cutoff is, if not 5 employees? I mean, that number is kind of arbitrary; do you have a different suggestion? There is a balance to strike here, I think we all know that — for instance, even a 100-person business wouldn’t be required to provide 250 full-paid sick days a year in perpetuity. So what’s the right cutoff?

    And if sick people are quitting, or getting fired for taking time off without pay, then you have to pay the replacement costs anyway. And if sick people are coming to work, that’s unsanitary, a public disservice, and an extreme disservice to your customers (even if the employee doesn’t deal with them face-to-face).

  19. PrettyAmiable
    August 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    . If you made a business plan based on “my employees will never get sick”, you ought to go into business with the underpants gnomes, because your business acumen is about at the level of “1. Steal underpants. 2. ?? 3. Profit!”

    Alara, thank you so much. Repeated just in case anyone missed this the first time.

    Also, great comment in general – I think it’s helpful to have the perspective of small business owners centered in these conversations.

  20. Bonn
    August 18, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I don’t live in New York, but …

    I have a chronic illness. It flared up a few months ago, just in time for finals and summer vacation. All my coworkers went on vacation, so not only was I working extra hours to pick up the slack, but because of my store’s policy, there was no way I could call out sick and not be penalized. Usually we can swap shifts, but if there’s no one to swap with? You just go in.

    And it’s still going on. I’m tired and dizzy, my feet hurt from standing so long and because my illness is in my digestive tract, I can’t eat or drink anything from about 2 hours before to one hour after my shift (when I’m safely at home). So even a four hour shift means no food or drink for seven hours. And a seven hour shift? Yeah, that’s worse. I’m dehydrated and my nutrition is horrible, but I can’t risk waking the dragon up, so to speak.

    My mom says “It’s money.” I say it’s not worth the $30 I would lose by not working. If we had any sick days … I would cry tears of joy. Because of my illness I try to go to work even when I’m feeling like absolute shit, but it’s getting harder and harder and harder. And I can’t take a day off. I can’t even get an unpaid day to go to the doctor. Not until they finally hire someone else …

  21. Kristen J.
    August 18, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    If your payroll cannot absorb 5 sick days per year per employee, you have hired too many people in the first place. People get sick, and you have to be compensating for that.

    Yup. I’d like to add that I also liked using unionized employees. The *biggest* drain on my profitability was my lack of bargaining power when it came to negotiating. But the union I worked with was able to provide health care, temporary disability, and paid sick leave (among other things). Sure, it was more expensive than if I had hired people to avoid the legal requirement to provide health care coverage…but as it was I was able to provide all of those benefits for about what it would have cost me to provide just health insurance. All of this is to say…small business owners and employees can be partners and can work together to create fair working conditions for everyone.

  22. Kristen J.
    August 18, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    That should have been:

    “when it came to negotiating health care costs”

  23. rkel038
    August 18, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    I agree with what Alara Rogers said earlier – if you can’t afford sick leave you can’t afford the employee. I don’t understand why people think that sick leave is something that even needs to be questioned – sickness is something all humans have in common, we all get it and there is often nothing that can be done about it.

    Not having guaranteed sick leave or paid sick leave in a way artificially lowers the cost of doing business in the USA. It allows you to earn unearned money, because how is paid sick leave anything BUT a fundamental cost of doing business?

    The situation is absolutely ridiculous. Sometimes the state of affairs in the USA actually leaves me in utter disbelief that one of the most developed nations in the world seems to CONSTANTLY be denying that its workers are not actually robotic automatons and are in fact humans with needs. For a ‘Christian’ nation, the USA sure does despise kindness.

  24. Vi
    August 18, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Alara:

    (Note that this actually isn’t true of part time employees, and I’m a lot more sympathetic to the idea of not paying part timers for sick days, because a part timer can usually just re-arrange what hours they are going to work. If a 20 hr employee was coming in Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for 4 hr shifts and then Saturday for 8 hours, and they are sick on Monday, let them work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for 4 hour shifts and don’t pay them for the sick time. But a full time employee doesn’t have that flexibility; you can’t just work 8 hours on Saturday because you were sick on Monday, because you may well have pre-existing obligations for Saturday.

    I was right with you up until this part. So the full-time employee can’t be expected to give up their Saturday because they might have “pre-existing obligations”, but the part-time employee is expected to just be doing nothing on the days they’re not working? Many part-time employees work part-time to fit work around other obligations, including around other jobs. People rarely take a three day a week job for no reason and then just sit on the couch for the rest of the week.

    In Australia, all part-time and full-time non-casual employees employees have sick leave. Casual employees do not have sick days or annual leave and are paid an extra loading which is supposed to cover this. There’s also a few other differences between the two types of work. We’re seeing an increasing move towards casual positions in the Australian workforce.

  25. nofear
    August 19, 2012 at 12:41 am

    American workers are begging for table scraps…and even that is too much for business owners and the free marketers.

    We are asking for too little and receiving even less.

  26. Alara Rogers
    August 19, 2012 at 12:56 am

    Vi, in the US most part time workers don’t actually have a set weekly schedule; the schedule tends to be set per week, and people who have part time jobs often do it specifically because of the flexibility it offers.

    If there’s someone who works part time who has only exactly specific hours that they can work, because at all other times they have obligations… well, most places will not hire people as part timers with those kinds of restrictions. You tend to be required to be able to move your days and hours around to a certain extent. If an employer is actually treating a part time worker’s time as being set as firmly as the hours of the full time workers, then yes, I would be in favor of them getting paid sick time, but that’s not how part time work is usually done in the US. And generally, part time workers aren’t actually guaranteed a set number of hours — you might have anywhere between 12 and 30 hours in a given week, for many part time jobs — so there isn’t really a way, for such kinds of work, to determine that someone has sick time. They didn’t have a guarantee of paid hours of work for that day anyway.

  27. Vi
    August 19, 2012 at 1:19 am

    It sounds like what you call “part time” we call “casual”. Casual employees (in theory) determine with their employer on a week to week basis what hours they will work. In practice, a hell of a lot of people have been fired for not being available for the shifts their employer says they have to work.

    How does this work in the US for workers who work multiple jobs, though? I’ve heard that, like here, a large number of low income earners work multiple jobs (including multiple part time jobs) to make ends meet. How does that work if you’re expected to be available all the time?

  28. August 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Vi and Alara, my experience with part-time jobs in the US has been that many of them have a set schedule. I once worked a part-time food service job with a set schedule (and ended up getting fired for calling in sick!) I’ve also applied/interviewed for a bunch of PT administrative jobs with a set schedule.

    It depends on the job, but from what I’ve seen both in my own job hunt and my friends’ work situations, there are a significant number of set-schedule PT jobs in the US. And there are definitely people who work multiple PT jobs and would not be able to shift their work schedules when they get sick. So I agree with you, Vi, that there are many part-timers who need paid sick time just as much as full-timers do.

  29. Mike
    August 19, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    The bottom needs to be regulated by law. If its up to the employer, everybody would work like, like the people in India and China I guess.

  30. karak
    August 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    How does this work in the US for workers who work multiple jobs, though? I’ve heard that, like here, a large number of low income earners work multiple jobs (including multiple part time jobs) to make ends meet. How does that work if you’re expected to be available all the time?

    Here’s how I used to do it:

    I walk into my 40 hour job, which has some kind of consistent week, 2 week, or 4 week schedule. I create a calendar of times I am NOT available (say, 5am to 4pm Monday through Friday). Then I give this calendar to my part-time boss. This calendar needs to include ALL my days off, including doctor’s appointments, birthdays, whatever.

    My part time job then schedules me around my availability. So, that means I am available 24 hours Saturday and Sunday. I will be expected to work those days, but he cannot schedule me outside of my availability. The more open my availability is, the more hours I get and the more money I make. This often results in me going from one job to another or working 15 hours days. I want to have the least amount of time blacked out as possible.

    Childcare, school, and second job are often respected. Vacations, appointments, and personal days are not. It is not legal to schedule someone outside of their availability, however, if you block out too much time your job will punish you by limit hours.

    Back to my schedule…since I can work 7 days a week, 2 of them 4 days, I’m going to get probably 30+ hours, 26 of which will be on the open days. If I only worked 2 full days, I’m going to probably only work 8-10 hours as “punishment” for less availability.

    I worked at McDonalds, and I told them I had to be gone at specific times to get to my other job. This was always respected, even in the middle of a rush, because it is my manager’s responsibility to schedule appropriately. Many of my managers had children, another job, or where attending school, and were very sympathetic and reassuring about this.

  31. jaz
    August 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I’m grateful for this discussion and all of the candid story-telling and sharing. It highlights how this is real for so many of us not just rhetoric or conjecture. Thanks to everyone!

  32. August 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    How does this work in the US for workers who work multiple jobs, though? I’ve heard that, like here, a large number of low income earners work multiple jobs (including multiple part time jobs) to make ends meet. How does that work if you’re expected to be available all the time?

    Yeah, I have friends in Canada who have tried to work multiple part-time jobs at once (usually no more than two or three) where their hours were not set. If they had awesome bosses who respected the fact that their employees were not “free all the time” and worked out a plan for scheduling around it and allowed their employees the flexibility to swap as needed if conflicts came up, then it all worked out. But all it took was one mediocre boss or an actively incompetent boss to screw the whole thing to hell by making unrealistic demands on availability or being inflexible. Or, even if the boss was good, a stupid head office making requirements that eliminated flexibility. So, yeah, definitely a vulnerability for part-time workers, especially when *all* their jobs are like this.

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