The unthinking publishing of studies like this regularly disappoints me.
It’s basically taking a press release from business lobby group, Business NZ, and accepting its line.
The study Business NZ has paid for is in fact a quick totting up of the gross costs of sick leave, without looking at the benefits, or considering the real world.
Yes there is a cost to paying a sick employee who isn’t at work.
There’s also a cost if that sick employee turns up.
As they’re trying to quantify in the US at the moment with their movement for sick leave (as the only western country without it…) taking hold in some cities. If the waiter-employee turns up to work and coughs over your customers, they may well not return. If your office-worker turns up, they may well infect all your other employees.
And while they’re at work, they won’t be remotely as productive: they’re ill. and they may become more so, because they haven’t taken a rest – increasing the costs to the employer and society at large as we treat them to get them better. And by not paying sick pay you’d really be pressing home that you as an employer don’t care about their welfare: how likely are they to care about yours?
Sick leave makes sense economically, as well as from a public health perspective.
Looking further at the study New Zealanders average 4.5 sick days each year compared to the UK’s 6.5.
Are we really that much healthier, or is it that most people don’t have the option of more than 5 days, so turn up, or take annual or unpaid leave?
Public service workers take more than average – no doubt because they have the ability to: most get 10 days sick leave, as we all should.
Manual workers also take more in another unsurprising stat: when I injured my wrist earlier this year I didn’t need time off as I could still type; but if I was required to lift something heavy, swing a hammer or turn a wrench, I’d have had to take a few days off.
So how enlightened are we from the Herald’s covering the press release? There’s a little more evidence about how we need 10 days sick leave – against the spin of the story – and that’s about it.