Too often, the interests of workers and businesses are pitted against each other, as if what’s good for one is bad for the other. Well, I can tell you from experience, this is just not true.
Ten years ago, my brother and I founded Maine Beer Co. to show that the interests of workers, business and the environment could be aligned to benefit everyone. What we learned is that valuing workers is good for business. It’s also the right thing to do.
Providing employees with paid sick leave makes sense for businesses and is the right policy.
Workers shouldn’t have to choose between their paycheck and their health. This type of statewide policy is long overdue.
At the core of every company are two things: the product and the people. An earned paid sick day policy benefits both.
Healthy workers are good for business. When employees are able to earn paid sick days, it’s reflected in the quality and efficiency of their work. It’s estimated that the cost of employees going to work while sick costs companies roughly $160 billion annually.
But you don’t need studies to know this is true.
At one point or another, most people have gone to work sick when they should have stayed home, and we all know what happens. You may be physically present, but mentally you’re just trying to make it through the day, and the work suffers. An earned paid sick day policy would allow more workers to get better — faster — and get back to work.
It’s also good for public health.
A paid sick day policy helps to limit the spread of illness among employees and customers. It’s not good for business if an employee comes to work sick and inadvertently infects other members of the staff. But if an employee doesn’t have access to earned paid sick days, how can you expect them to stay home if it means missing a paycheck?
Policies like earned paid sick days boost company and customer morale. When you treat your employees right, you build a team of high-quality people who want to be there. You build a team that cares about your company and your product. It also reduces turnover rates, in some cases by up to 50 percent. In a tight labor market like Maine, it doesn’t make financial sense not to treat workers right.
Consumers also want to support companies that treat their employees with respect and dignity. This makes sense because employees are the ambassadors of your company and your brand. They are the ones who foster an environment that makes people want to come to your establishment or buy your product. Investing in five paid days off is a small price to pay for healthy and happy employees and a strong, loyal customer base.
I don’t mean to minimize the cost of running a business. Health care costs and other burdens can be challenging. Employers shouldn’t pass those costs off to our employees, who are the foundation of our success. Forgoing an earned paid sick day policy doesn’t solve the challenge of running a business. In fact, a number of different case studies reviewing cities and states that have already adopted an earned paid sick day policy show that the economic benefits outweigh the costs, which tend to be minimal at best.
At Maine Beer Co., our motto is “Do What’s Right” for a reason. We believe that treating our workers right is the right thing to do and that it’s good for business.
It’s time for Maine to do what’s right for workers and families all across the state, starting with earned paid sick time.
Dan Kleban is the co-founder of Maine Beer Co. in Freeport, where he lives with his wife and children.