Fox News diminished the importance of paid sick and parental leave for working families and other employees as unnecessary “giveaways,” ignoring the fact that paid sick leave policies have proven to save the economy billions of dollars annually, improve businesses, and predominately help low-income workers and women.
On January 15, President Obama launched an initiative to urge federal agencies and private-sector businesses to provide paid sick and family leave to working parents and other employees. And as The New York Times reported, pushed Congress to pass measures that will “let workers earn up to a week of paid sick time a year,” provide federal workers “an additional six weeks of paid parental leave,” and “encourage states to create paid family and medical leave programs.” As The Washington Post's Wonkblog noted, “The U.S. remains the world's only wealthy nation that does not mandate a minimum of paid sick leave, vacation leave or parental leave.”
On the January 15 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Stuart Varney dismissed the initiatives as a “giveaway” and a political ploy aimed at making Republicans “look bad.” Host Martha MacCallum flippantly diminished the importance of paid sick leave for working families and other employees saying, “What happened to, if you are really sick and you really can't come to work you don't come to work, and then if you are not really sick then you don't get any sick days?”:
But Fox's dismissal ignores the fact that paid sick days have been shown to save the U.S. economy billions of dollars annually. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, “Paid sick days help to decrease the productivity lost when employees work sick... which is estimated to cost our national economy $160 billion annually.” Paid sick leave also contributes to workplace stability by removing the cost of replacing workers and the risk of infecting other workers.
Additionally, The Center for Economic Policy Research found that Connecticut's paid sick leave law had a negligible financial impact on the businesses that had to change their policies to comply with the law. Furthermore, these businesses reported minimal abuse of sick leave policies and a host of benefits:
The largest increases in paid sick leave coverage after the law went into effect were in health, education and social services; hospitality; and retail. Part-time workers, rarely covered before the law took effect, benefited disproportionately from its passage. Few employers reported abuse of the new law, and many noted positive benefits such as improved morale and reductions in the spread of illness in the workplace.
And paid sick leave policies predominately help low-income workers and women. As The Washington Post's Wonkblog pointed out, low-income workers are four times less likely to get paid sick leave than the top 10 percent of private sector wage earners. And a Kaiser Family Foundation report found that women are overwhelmingly more likely than men to need paid sick leave to care for their sick children, and the poorest moms have the fewest benefits with “only 36 percent of moms below 200 percent of the federal poverty level” having paid sick leave.