Legislated Sick Time: The Real Story

Legislated Sick Time: The Real Story
by Len Turcotte

A recent opinion piece caught my attention regarding an author’s desire to see paid sick time become yet another mandate for all NH employers. I offer the following alternative perspective.

219 to 122. That was the vote in the NH House recently to kill a bill (HB600) that would have required every employer to pay sick time to every full and part-time employee in our state. The public hearing was held in the Labor Committee of which I am a member. I also spoke on the floor of the House firmly against this legislation.

HB600 would have imposed direct costs to employers for the payment of sick time, as well as additional costs due to regulatory and record-keeping compliance. A few of those employer burdens include 1) the cost of the pay for sick time, 2) the cost of employment taxes on the paid sick time, 3) employer’s time lost for record-keeping , 4) the cost of record retention, 5) costs to the Department of Labor (taxpayers) for publishing and posting notices and other information, 6) DOL enforcement of the inevitable non-compliance cases, and finally 7) direct taxpayer cost of nearly $9 million annually to cover currently uncovered part-time NH State Public Employees. And the $9 million does not include the costs to counties, cities and towns!

Instead of adding expensive costs and time burdens on the employers that would inevitably be
passed on to the consumer/taxpayer, other solutions can be utilized. Many employers who do not provide paid sick time offer very flexible employee scheduling. Employees can trade a shift or even work a shift for a sick co-worker. As another option, the employee who has not yet earned a sick time benefit could easily put aside 1/30th of their pay (this is the ratio the HB600’s sponsor suggested) to cover their possible future sick time needs. For an employee earning $10 an hour, that is a mere 33 cents. Are these not much more efficient and cost-effective ways to deal with sick time than imposing further burdensome regulations on employers?

The author of the opinion piece mislead the reader when she mentioned that several states have paid sick leave, yet only one state currently has that mandate. Two others will begin doing so this summer. Each has exceptions to the mandates. The three states, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, have an overall tax burden ranking of 1st, 3rd and 11th respectively in our country. New Hampshire, by comparison is 44th. Do we really want or need to emulate these fiscally irresponsible states?

Employment contracts between an employer and their employees should be an agreement freely reached between the two parties without any bureaucratic interference. Employment agreements frequently have benefit packages, which can include items such as vacation, health insurance and sick time, but they are just that, benefits. Benefits are not a right or an entitlement to be mandated by legislators. Feel-good regulations that impose burdensome costs on employers have no place in a free market economy that operates on the economic principle of supply and demand. One has to analyze the issue beyond the political sound-bites.

In the current session of the House, our Labor committee heard no less than four bills demanding to raise the minimum wage to as high as $16.00 an hour, two bills to place limits on an employer’s ability to use credit history or criminal history while screening a prospective employee and HB600 mandating paid sick time. Any of these bills alone give businesses a disincentive to grow and locate in NH and could certainly lead to higher unemployment. Add them all into the mix, and we create an environment businesses will avoid altogether.

Len Turcotte is NH House Representative from Barrington, Strafford County District 4 and serves on the House Labor Committee

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