Study: Paid Sick Leave Has Minimal Effect on Employers

Jan 9, 2014

Credit Fuse / Thinkstock

A new study quantifies the impact of Connecticut's first-in-the-nation paid sick leave law, and many employers said they're pleasantly surprised.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research conducted this survey more than a year after the paid sick leave mandate had gone into effect. The law impacts Connecticut employers with more than 50 workers.

The researchers questioned 251 randomly chosen companies, and conducted detailed site visits with 15. Author Eileen Applebaum said they interviewed one grocery manager who'd been outspoken in his opposition to the law before it passed. She said, "When we asked him, so how has it affected your business operations?, he paused for a moment and he said, well, I could lie, but the truth is it's been minimal. It was just a minimal effect on his operations."

Part-time workers were covered for the first time, and businesses with many part-timers saw the biggest financial impact, but Applebaum says only ten percent of employers saw an increase in payroll costs of more than three percent. The majority of companies were able to cover for absentees by assigning work to other employees temporarily.

The hospitality industry in Connecticut saw the biggest increase in access to paid sick leave in 2013.
Credit Center for Economic and Policy Research

Applebaum also said fears that the law would be abused proved unfounded. "86 percent of Connecticut employers reported no abuse whatsoever," she said, "and those that did report abuse said, well, it's not really any different than before the law; we've always had people who took off and said they were sick when they might not have been."

Among the positive effects uncovered by the study -- 30 percent of employers said morale was improved in the workforce, and 19 percent said fewer employees were coming into work sick. While about two thirds of employees used the benefit, most used fewer than half of the days available to them. Companies did say the existence of paid sick leave led to more unscheduled absences.