For the past 10 years, various lawmakers have introduced legislation that would create a paid sick days policy for North Carolina workers.
The Healthy Families and Workplaces Paid Sick Days Act has never seen a vote over the last decade in the State General Assembly, despite the fact that 1.6 million citizens do not have jobs offering this benefit.
Jay Murrie owns Piedmont Wine Imports in Durham and voluntarily offers paid sick days to his employees.
“When you put people into that sort of environment, they give a lot back to the organizations they work for,” he states. “I feel like paid sick leave is just part of a tapestry that any business should do for the people within it, in order to achieve a sustainability and profitability for the company.”
Low-wage workers are specifically impacted by the lack of paid sick days, since more than half of them earn less than $20,000 a year, meaning they are not able to miss a paycheck to take care of illness.
Currently this year’s legislation (SB 556/H 544) has been referred to committee for consideration. Opponents of the legislation argue it creates a burden for employers.
Ana Pardo, campaign coordinator for the Workers’ Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center, says there are a myriad of factors in not offering paid sick leave, aside from just financial.
“If you make your workers come to work sick, you’re essentially putting them in a situation where they forfeit their wages to not come into work sick,” she points out. “A lot of people are going to choose to come in, and you don’t get what you need from those workers when they come in sick, and you expose the rest of your staff and your customer base to getting sick as well.”
Murrie says aside from knowing he’s doing the right thing for his employees, he makes the money back that he spends on the benefit and then some by retaining employees and avoiding a high turnover rate.
“I think that what a lot of business owners don’t understand is that if you pay people a living wage, you give them basic necessary benefits, on a daily basis they create higher levels of profitability,” he states.
Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Oregon and Vermont all have paid sick days laws.
In North Carolina, the law would allow employees to accrue from 4 to 7 days of paid sick leave each year, depending on the size of their company.