Connecticut workers are getting paid to call in sick, thanks to a new law

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Connecticut workers ushered in 2012 with a new law that requires most employers in the state to provide workers with paid sick leave.

The state’s the first in the country to pass such a bill, stirring up new controversy over whether it’s fair for businesses to shoulder the burden of sick employees.

Yale Law School professor Adam Cohen argues as much in a recent Time Moneyland post, contending it’s simply the humane thing to do – for both workers and the general public.

“Millions of Americans work at jobs that do not offer them a paid day off when they get sick. In the private sector, nearly 40% of workers do not have paid sick leave,” Cohen writes. “Not surprisingly, low-income workers are worst off. Among the bottom 25% of wage earners — those making $10.50 or less an hour — just 33% can take a paid day off when they are ailing.”

Connecticut’s law covers part-time workers but only applies to businesses with more than 50 employees who fall under a list of “service workers” approved by the state. Employers must provide up to five days paid sick leave, which includes time off when an employee’s child or spouse is ill.

The argument against paid sick leave – that it’s big government overstepping its boundaries and will kill jobs – became harder to win in the wake of the 2009 H1N1 (Swine flu) scare.

An eye-opening report by the Institute for Women’s Policy research showed  8 million Americans turned up at work while infected, putting anyone in their path at risk of contracting the virus.

In a Huffington Post column last week, Ellen Bravo, director of Family Values @ Work predicted a new trend in the country as other states like Washington and Pennsylvania follow Connecticut’s lead.

“2012 will see a wave of similar campaigns across the country — because workers are desperate for relief and because small business owners and policymakers are increasingly seeing paid sick days as a modest step with significant impact that keeps people employed, at a time when holding on to a decent job is especially critical.”

At any rate, mandated paid sick leave would be a boon for cash-strapped consumers, who paid sky-high health care premiums in the last decade.

The Commonwealth Fund predicted the average premium for covering your family could skyrocket 72% to almost $24,000 per year by 2020 if that trend continues.

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