Offering Sick Leave Benefits Has Benefits

It costs an employer 23 cents per hour per worker—on average—to provide sick time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.   Yet, 39 percent of workers in the private sector and 26 percent of those who work part time do not have any sick days. And, about two-thirds of people who earn $10.40 an hour or less don’t have sick days.

No federal mandate for sick timeHoliday party for employees at One if by Land, Two if by Sea

In fact, sick days are not mandated by U.S. law—although three areas have passed legislation in the last few years that make sick days mandatory:  San Francisco, Milwaukee, and Washington, D.C.

But, there are some companies—even small ones—that make sick time available to their workers because they care about running socially responsible businesses and about the health and well being of their employees.

One if By Land, Two if By Sea

One if by Land, Two if by Sea is a 38-year old restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village, known for its romantic atmosphere.  All its 65 employees are given sick time.  Officially, each worker gets three sick days per year, although Roseanne Martino, the restaurant’s general manager says that often that time is extended for people who need it. “Paid sick times represents less than 1% of our annual payroll,” says Martino.

The benefit of offering benefits

Martino notes that the cost of providing sick time “is less than the cost of hiring and training a new employee.” Something they apparently  don’t need to do very often.  Several of the restaurant’s employees have been with the company for decades—quite a feat given the industry’s notoriously high turnover.  And, there are even second-generation employees.

“Fathers and mothers recommend their children for work with us because they know we have an environment where their children will be treated fairly,” says Martino.  “We notice that their parents instill in their children a loyalty and respect for our workplace and these second-generation employees are often our best and most responsible employees, letting us know when their co-workers are being careless with our property or violating a health code law.”

Martino relayed an account of one employee who showed with an active case of chicken pox.  She sent him home, but three days later, once his sick days were gone, he reappeared still contagious.  She sent him home again, with more sick day pay.

Compassionate?  Yes.  But the restaurant and its employees were rewarded.  No one else contracted the chicken pox. “We also noticed better productivity among his co-workers after that incident because they all felt a sense of security, knowing that we genuinely care about their welfare and that if they had a problem, we would be responsive to it,” says Martino.

Taking the “high-road”

Martino is also part of the city’s Restaurant Industry Coalition, a group that created the “high-road”—a code of conduct for restaurants related to health insurance, minimum wage and paid sick time among other things.

She wants to level the playing field among restaurants for the benefit of workers and business owners. “There are a lot of things that go on in the restaurant industry that are very standard but illegal,” she is reported to have said. “You keep more money if you’re not doing things right, so it makes it difficult to compete.”

But the philosophy and taking the high-road for One if by Land, Two if by Sea has paid off. The benefits offered to its workers has engendered their good and “has enabled the business to weather many financial and economic storms,”

Jennifer Hicks is a freelance journalist and the lead editor of SmartBrief on Sustainability, a free daily e-newsletter that offers a round up of the day's most important news for businesses and consumers interested in sustainability issues. Her work has appeared on several health, business and political Web sites.

4 responses

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  2. What is the difference between 1 week of paid vacation and 1 week of paid sick pay, vs. 2 weeks PTO (paid time off) to use any way you want?

    1. I think vacation has a cash equivalent – when you leave you get the unpaid balance, whereas sick leave is “use it or lose it.” PTO has a cash equivalent as well.

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