The NPR December 29th story, Illinois Issues: New Laws In 2017, is on the enlargement of the scope of sick leave policies in Illinois. On January 1st, 2017, employees can take paid time from work to care for other family member’s medical needs, including their parents or in-laws. Adult children are bombarded by so many sick leave issues. They often have the house-the spouse-the kids-AND Mom! Suppose their spouse has a medical appointment for which they are not allowed to drive themselves? Does the employee take the time and lose the pay? Must they choose between keeping a sick child home from school and missing a day’s pay? Since elders use the healthcare system the most, adult children find those appointments more frequent and lost pay more of a burden. Since medical office hours usually overlap working hours, what’s the alternative for working caregivers? This change in law does not affect those employers who do not offer any paid sick leave. However, it’s a first step.
Some concerns were raised about benefits. I see four. First, it keeps employees on the job. So employers avoid the costs of hiring, training and acclimation of a new employee. Employees who might miss work are otherwise good workers. Why drive the good ones away? I’ve hired for two previous businesses and discovered that finding the right person was vital.
Second, employees who receive this benefit will be even more committed to the job. Many times caregivers have told me about the lack of support in their jobs. Thus when employees receive some support, it welds them to their employers.
Third, some “paid sick leaves” might be quite small. A caregiver told me her boss was upset because she was sometimes late (by 15 minutes) returning from lunch. Her Alzheimer’s-afflicted husband was still at home. She went home to give him his pills and serve him lunch. If she encountered a train blocking her return, she had to wait. What if the employer had staggered her lunch hour at a different time or she arrived 15 minutes early? A recent research by AARP showed we have 43.5 million caregivers in the US. An employee with caregiving duties is no longer an if; it’s a when.
Fourth, a Caregiver Emerita (her loved one passed away) told me she had to quit her job! Caregiving usually arrives as adult children are reaching the pinnacle of their careers. This should be the time of greatest economic gains, investments in their own old age, and buying power. Those are lost when employees are forced to choose (or quit). The bottom line is businesses are organized to make money. They do that by selling goods or services. If there are fewer people to buy those things, the business loses money. Keep people on the job, it pays you, the employer.
Why is this legislation a good first step? We will have a chance to test the idea. Some businesses don’t have paid sick leave, others do. After a year, we can review statistics. I will look into my senior-oriented crystal ball and make some predictions. ONE, some caregiving employees will seek jobs in companies with paid caregiving sick leave policy. Thus, those employers will have the larger applicant pool. TWO, those employers who have paid leave find their turn-over rates drop. Even if some employees do not yet have senior caregiving duties, they can see how their employer treats coworkers. Businesses have two reputations; one is in the public sphere, the other is internal. Paid caregiving sick leave enhances the internal reputation. THREE, just the knowledge that caregiving employees have some help will reduce their stress. Stress is a major factor in illnesses of all types, especially chronic illnesses. How would you like to lower your medical costs? FOUR, I predict this policy won’t cost as much as it pays.
Tune in again at New Year’s 2018 to see how the policy affected caregiving employees and their employers. HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!