Paid Sick Leave - Ohio Ballot Intiative

Supporters of a mandated paid sick leave proposal expected to be on the November ballot are making a case that’s appealing at first glance- that personal or family illness merits time off without losing pay.

What supporters aren’t talking about is the steep price to be paid for imposing yet another mandate on Ohio businesses at a time when Ohioans have already suffered too many job losses.

“Nobody is against sick leave,” said John C. Mahaney, Jr., treasurer of Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits, a coalition of businesses, trade associations and employers concerned about the actual impact of the proposed mandate. “But Ohio’s struggling economy – and especially the thousands of small businesses that are the backbone of our economy – can’t withstand provisions in this proposal that threaten pay, benefits and jobs.”

Not only does the issue hit small employers hard at a time of adverse economic conditions in Ohio, but it also severely penalizes larger employers who already grant sick leave. The reason is that the mandate scheme allows sick leave to be taken in increments as small as an hour or less with no advance notice. Major manufacturers with assembly line processes, hospitals, nursing homes and day care centers are among the employers who will encounter major disruption if the issue becomes law.

“It’s one thing if someone is gone from an office on short notice,” Mahaney said. “It’s something much different when that person works on an assembly line and the ability of hundreds of other workers to do their jobs is impacted.”

Many employers fear the only way they will be able to afford the proposed mandate would be to make up the difference by taking the money from somewhere else. That could mean fewer other benefits, fewer raises – even fewer jobs.

Earlier this year, a group led by the Service Employees International Union and like-minded organizations submitted an initiative petition that would require all businesses with 25 or more employees to provide at least seven paid sick days to employees who work at least 30 hours a week and a pro-rated number of days to employees working less that 30 hours.

When the deadline for General Assembly consideration passed without action, the group began collecting the signatures required to place the issue on the ballot. It now appears likely that supporters will collect enough signatures to force a vote in the November general election.

While polls show most Ohioans like the idea of sick leave – in fact most Ohioans take some form of sick leave for granted as part of their overall benefits package – experts say this particular proposal is badly written and contains significant flaws.

Some employers say they may even have to pay for the mandate by increasing the contributions employees pay for their healthcare coverage. And while employers say in the short term they will need to shuffle benefit packages to pay for the mandate, the long-term result could be increased costs of goods and services.

Mahaney said the mandate will almost certainly brand Ohio as a “job-killer” at a time when the state is in desperate need of new jobs.

“Many companies have long-standing agreements that provide employees with good pay and benefits in exchange for work arrangements that ensure a continued high level of production,” he said. “This proposal guts long-term employer-employee relationships and the production stability achieved over many years of working together.”