Earlier this year, Connecticut's Governor signed legislation to require businesses with more than fifty employees to offer paid sick leave to workers. Now Massachusetts' State Legislature's Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development has starting holding hearings and taking testimony from unions and employee advocacy groups pushing the Bay State in the same direction. If these organizations have their way, all businesses, big and small, will be required to offer full-time workers up to seven paid sick days per year.
In flush times, it's easy to see how such mandates have appeal. No one wants to oppose giving someone time off to care for a sick child or recover from an illness. But advocates for the poor and working class should be warned: Mandates like these come with costs, and the poorest and lowest skilled workers are likely to bear the brunt of the law's unintended consequences.
While the vast majority of businesses already provide paid leave without a government mandate, a new mandate would impose new costs on those that currently don't. These businesses would have to re-budget to pay both existing workers on leave and temporary workers who replace them. Since the existence of paid leave leads to the greater use of leave, businesses would have to prepare for more workplace disruptions. Many would also have to step up their human resources system to account for hours worked and leave taken to ensure compliance with the law. All of this will be particularly hard on small businesses.
How would businesses, many of which are already struggling to survive in this economy, make up for these new costs? They'd have several options. They could cut down on workers to limit their exposure to the new regulations by outsourcing or eliminating non-essential jobs. Take-home pay would likely go down since more compensation would go toward benefits.
This is bad news for Massachusetts’ unemployed workers and those who worry about losing jobs. It is also evidence that politicians believe that they know best how the economy should run. They continue to see the private sector as something that they can manipulate without consequence. Yet evidence to the contrary abounds, as employers continue to lay off workers and move jobs overseas.
Americans should say enough with politicians who seem to believe that all answers lie in Washington and the state capitols around the country. We've had enough with government dictates and tax-and-borrow-and-spend mentality. Our continuing economic crisis proves that it's time to stop burdening private enterprise, cut government spending, and return control of our economy to the people.