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How Chicago is Changing the Employment Game (And Why Other Cities Should Be Taking Notes)

by Diane Klementowich on October 15, 2018 in MindSpring News


paid sick leave ordinance

Whether you’ve caught a batch of seasonal allergies, a flu bug, or the latest cold that’s been making the rounds, there’s nothing worse than being stuck in bed and nursing yourself back to health – except for when you have to go into work. Fortunately for Chicagoans, their city officials agree.


In July 2017, Cook County, IL implemented a paid sick leave ordinance, mandating at least some paid time off for employees working in the Chicagoland area. At the time, about 40% of private sector workers in the county didn’t have any paid sick leave and were at risk of losing their jobs if illness prevented them from making it to work.


Now, Chi-town employers are required to allow workers of any kind – including part-time, seasonal, and temporary – to accrue an hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked. Furthermore, any unused sick time must be carried over to the next year. Employees can use the time to care for themselves or a family member in the cases of illness, injury, domestic violence, or if a public health emergency forces the closure of the workplace or their child’s school.


So, how exactly do these laws benefit Chicagoland businesses? And why are similar laws suddenly trending across the country? Here’s the lowdown on why paid sick leave is becoming a must for other cities too.


Increased Productivity

Employees taking more time off actually increases business efficiency and cuts costs. Sounds pretty backwards, right? Well, when it comes to paid sick leave, that’s the case. Paid sick days help to alleviate the pain of “presenteeism” – otherwise known as the productivity lost when employees work sick. One study found that 50% of respondents have experienced at least one day at work where they’ve been unable to concentrate due to illness or being worried about a sick family member.


One “off” day a year may not seem like a huge deal on the surface, but presenteeism is a large-scale issue that has a significant impact on the economy. A year-long survey of nearly 30,000 working adults known as the “American Productivity Audit” calculated the cost of presenteeism in the U.S. to be over $225 billion a year By allocating paid sick leave, you can boost employee performance, engagement, and well-being.


Reduced Healthcare Costs

Despite not firing on all cylinders, many employees don’t realize just how sick they are when they go into work, as well as the potential they have to infect others. Colleagues with weaker immune systems who are exposed to an illness have the potential to become significantly sicker than the original carrier – not only does this decrease productivity, it increases healthcare costs. Those without paid sick days are 2.5x more likely to seek emergency care for themselves, their children, or other relatives. Expensive emergency room visits often end up replacing routine medical appointments or preventative care, ultimately leading to higher health insurance costs for businesses.


Sicker workers may also be more prone to job-related injuries. One study found that workers with access to paid sick leave were 28% less likely to be injured than workers without the same access. Another study revealed that employees who work while sick are more likely to have heart attacks than their counterparts who stayed home. With mandated paid sick leave, companies reduce their risk of patient zero infecting the rest of their team – and of their healthcare costs skyrocketing.


Is Your Region Next?

Paid sick leave is an ethical and financial no-brainer. Shockingly, though, more than one-third of private-sector workers don’t have a single paid sick day. Additionally, only 13% have paid family and medical leave. Nobody should have to choose between working through illness or leaving their bills unpaid.


Luckily, more cities, counties, and states are joining Chicago, Illinois, in the effort to require paid sick leave for their employees. In 2018 alone, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington have enacted state-wide laws, with Austin, TX and Duluth, MN, also passing city-wide regulations. Benefits are a critical part of balancing work, family, and medical needs, and policies like the paid sick leave ordinance are a necessity for working families to stay afloat.


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